By Collin Szewczyk
as published by Aspen Daily News
The U.S. Forest Service will consider various methods, including a reservation system for overnight visitors to the heavily traveled Snowmass-Maroon Bells Wilderness, to better manage the glut of hikers flocking to the popular area each year.
Calling Conundrum Hot Springs “our biggest problem,” District Ranger Karen Schroyer said Tuesday that the process to limit use there would begin next year, and other facets of an adaptive management plan would follow. She and other representatives of the Aspen-Sopris District met with the Pitkin County commissioners to outline challenges facing the region.
The agency will conduct an environmental assessment of the wilderness area, as well as a review under the National Environmental Policy Act, Schroyer said.
The permitting process will reward those who plan ahead with a more enjoyable excursion, she said.
One idea being tossed around it to have visitors watch a video and take a test on www.recreation.gov before a permit would be issued. The goal is for people “to have what actually might be a wilderness experience in the wilderness,” Schroyer said.
“I think this plan will allow us to limit use as needed as we move forward in the future,” she said. “At Conundrum Hot Springs, for instance, we can allow 20 groups of people at one time. … That would dramatically limit overnight use on some heavy holiday weekends up there, because in the past, we’ve had upwards of 75 groups at a time camping.”
The Four-Pass Loop would be more complicated because there are four or five trails that can access that trek, she said.
“We want to get Conundrum Hot Springs, which I would say is our biggest problem, under way, and get that implemented, and then we’ll jump into the Four-Pass Loop after that, but nothing [will happen] before summer 2017,” Schroyer said.
A public comment period will also be held ahead of implementation.
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