- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) - Aspen will mark a 50th anniversary this summer that will give everyone cause to celebrate.

The Wilderness Act was passed in September 1964, and the stunning Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness was among the first wave of areas to receive special protection in the country. The wilderness designation prohibits motorized and mechanized uses. It is designed to preserve landscapes as much as possible, free from the hands of mankind.

But to some degree, wilderness has become a victim of its own success.

Flocks of tourists swarm Maroon Lake during the summer months. The slightly more adventurous load the trails to Buckskin Pass and West Maroon Pass. The Four Pass Loop is on most backpackers’ bucket lists. The Maroon Bells, Castle Peak, Pyramid Peak, Snowmass Mountain and Capitol Peak attract hundreds of climbers every summer. Popular destinations such as Snowmass Lake and Conundrum Hot Springs get so crowded at times that they resemble the atmosphere of a county fair.

The high visitation rate to the 181,602-acre wilderness area cannot necessarily be interpreted as appreciation of the special landscape.

“I don’t think we do celebrate wilderness all the time,” said Karin Teague, president of the board of directors of Wilderness Workshop, the oldest locally based environmental group in the Roaring Fork Valley. “We take it for granted.”

Wilderness Workshop is teaming with the U.S. Forest Service and other conservation groups to throw several events this summer to celebrate the passage of the Wilderness Act. One goal is to educate people about the special characteristics of the lands that earned them the protected status. Another goal is to give credit to the activists who had the foresight to fight for land protections, Teague said.

None of the other nearby wilderness areas received designation in the initial wave.

The Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness was created in 1978 and expanded in 1993. It is 82,026 acres with 65 miles of trails between Independence Pass and the south side of the Fryingpan Valley. It blends in with the 30,540-acre Mount Massive Wilderness. The Continental Divide is the only real separation of the two areas.

The Holy Cross Wilderness covers 122,918 acres starting in the north side of the Fryingpan Valley. It was created in 1980.

The Collegiate Peaks Wilderness provides 167,584 acres spreading south from Independence Pass. It boasts eight peaks greater than 14,000 feet. It was designated in 1980.

The Raggeds Wilderness, south of Marble, provides a distinctly more secluded 65,393-acre pocket of wonder. It was created in 1980 and expanded in 1993.


Information from: The Aspen Times, https://www.aspentimes.com/

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