Trail users in Snowmass Village have some newly completed improvements to look forward to, including work done by a group from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps that has been camping on town property off of Owl Creek Road.
The town on Tuesday — without the help of the campers — rebuilt a trailhead a third of a mile up from Owl Creek Road’s intersection with Highline Road, said Hunt Walker, Snowmass Village public works director.
“We were getting a lot of complaints from people not being able to access the Tom Blake Trail,” he said Thursday.
The new Owl Creek trailhead provides better access to that trail, and the Highline and Skyline Ridge trails.
Up until about 2000, the spot had been an unofficial trailhead, Walker said. After it was closed, the area was included in the Sky Mountain Park Management Plan. Rebuilding the parking area would not impact elk and other animals in the area, according to a wildlife study that accompanied the plan. The area is considered a critical wildlife habitat and migration corridor.
Snowmass Village, Pitkin County’s open space department and the city of Aspen’s parks and recreation department put the management plan together. The entities, along with the Aspen Valley Land Trust and other organizations and individuals, bought 850 acres formerly known as the Droste property for $17 million in 2010. The land is the linchpin connecting the 2,500-acre spread of public lands between Aspen and Snowmass that is known as Sky Mountain Park.
In the winter, the new Owl Creek trailhead, which has room for six cars, can also be used to access the area’s cross-country trail system, Walker said.
Cyclists and drivers going between Aspen and Snowmass Village have also seen tents on a hill above Owl Creek Road, on the property of the town’s public works facility. Camping in the unusual spot were eight members of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Walker said.
The county’s open space department brought them in to work on the Skyline Ridge Trail. Walker said he also used the group, comprised of 18- to 23-year-olds, to “buff out” the northern section of the Rim Trail.
With a lot of bear activity in town — the town has signs up warning residents to lock windows and doors and remove food from cars after a spate of break-ins — the group cooked and ate inside the public works facility.
The county this spring scheduled several different groups from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to come in weekly for trail work, said Gary Tennenbaum, the county’s open space stewardship and trails manager. The groups comprise of the young adults and a crew leader, he said.
While they camped nearby, the corps didn’t work on the Owl Creek trailhead, Walker said. His department handled that work, which took about half of Tuesday to complete and cost under $1,000.
The trail crews have since moved to the Hidden Valley area off Highline Road, Walker said.
Rocky Mountain Youth Corps plans on being in the area until July 13, according to a memo to Town Council. The county is providing a port-a-potty, and the organization has promised to clean the area and return it to its original state when they leave, Town Manager Russ Forrest wrote.