Backcountry enthusiasts who park haphazardly at the end of Pitkin County roads are causing access problems this winter, officials said Friday.
“We’ve had more complaints this year so far than all of last year,” said Brian Pettet, county public works director. “And I don’t know why that is.”
Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies had to help a resident of the Lenado area access his property earlier this week because of parking issues with mainly snowmobilers, Pettet said.
Also challenging has been the Prince Creek area, where Pitkin County road and bridge workers installed winter closure gates for the first time this season to keep people from accessing the area in snowy conditions, said Pettet and Scott Mattice, county road and bridge manager. The county recently provided six to eight new parking spaces on the Carbondale side of the Prince Creek gate closure for those who want to walk the road with or without dogs, Pettet said.
The winter closure gates on Maroon Creek and Castle Creek roads pose fewer problems because they offer more room to park vehicles, though there can be parking issues in those areas, too, they said.
Emergency vehicles and county maintenance vehicles must be able to access the areas beyond winter closure gates at all times, Mattice said.
While Mattice said he doesn’t think there are more people in the backcountry, he believes social media might have something to do with the parking problems. When people hear conditions are good in a certain area, or read reports of an interesting animal sighting on Facebook, the area can get crowded quickly, he said.
“It’s still the same number of users,” he said, “but it used to be dispersed more.”
Alex Burchetta, director of operations at the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said deputies will encounter parking problems at backcountry access points more often in summer.
“It’s worse in the sense that it’s winter,” he said. “We don’t typically see it in winter as much as in summer. But when the snow’s good and the weather’s decent, people are just getting out.”
Deputies often find people parked in signed no-parking areas and along county roads, both of which are not legal, Burchetta said.