Forest Service keeps Aspen doors open
Vail CO, Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” The U.S. Forest Service will keep its Aspen office open to the public year-round again, reversing a direction of recent years.
“It’s going to be open all winter,” said Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Irene Davidson.
The Forest Service’s presence in Aspen during winters has been an on-going debate within the agency. The number of tourists seeking information at the office plummets during winters, so the visitor information role is reduced. The number of visits is higher in spring, summer and fall when people seek information on camping, trails and roads.
Traditionally, the office has been open year-round. In recent years, the office was closed to the public from December until spring. Last year the Forest Service closed its doors to the public on Oct. 1 and didn’t reopen until spring. The cash-strapped agency said paying someone to staff the front counter of the Aspen office wasn’t the most effective way to provide contact with the public during winters.
That still may be the case, Davidson said, but there is also a need for a “gatekeeper” in Aspen. The Forest Service will always maintain an administrative office in Aspen for some of its workers in the district, she said. So it makes sense to have an administrative aid that can also handle inquiries from the public.
The majority of the staff works out of Carbondale, where the office is open to the public year-round.
In the long term, the agency wants to find a better solution for visitor information services in Aspen, possibly working with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association for a combined presence at a highly visible site, Davidson said.