Pitkin County Officials Adopt Penny Hot Springs Management Plan

Mar 3, 2020

After extensive collaboration between community groups, and two public comment periods, Pitkin County officials Tuesday voted to adopt the new Penny Hot Springs Management Plan. KDNK’s Lucas Turner has more.

Credit Pitkin County Open Space and Trails

During a joint meeting Tuesday, Pitkin County Commissioners chose to delegate the adoption of the management plan to the open space and trails board. They chose to adopt the plan after hearing from Lindsey Utter, planning and outreach manager for the county’s open space and trails department. She started by reading the plan’s vision statement.

LINDSEY UTTER: To protect and preserve the natural environment and future use of Penny Hot Springs in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner that is compatible with the location's natural setting, and that encourages respect and stewardship.

Utter says all of the action items listed in the management plan tie-in to that original vision statement, starting with the most critical step, developing a right-of-way agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).

Lindsey Utter details the management plan to Pitkin County Commissioners

UTTER: To be able, frankly, to enforce new rules and regulations, it requires the county to have a lease agreement with CDOT to lease back the pullout and the other half of the hot springs. What that lease would also allow us to do is have rule changes, and have a seamless system with rules so that on our property, the rules match what the CDOT right-of-way has, and empower the open space rangers to enforce those rules.

Lindsey Utter says while the CDOT agreement would probably take a year or two, public education around rules needs to start right away.

UTTER: The committee would like a sign that goes out as soon as possible that outlines the existing rules and regulations. So that users will start to understand that there will be behavioral shifts needed in the future here.

The adopted rules ban camping and loud music above a level consistent with the county’s existing noise code restrictions. Two other rules aim to reduce waste at the site by banning dogs and glass containers. Since the site will not have any kind of trash can, public education efforts will also focus on the leave no trace ethic.


Steering Committee members work on generating strategies to address the identified challenges facing the Penny Hot Springs area.
Credit Pitkin County Open Space and Trails


Apart from listing rules, eventual permanent signage at the site would be used for listing historical and environmental information.


UTTER: The big goal is, you want to encourage this sense of responsibility and ownership, and the education around why this needs to be protected from the visitors to Penny Hot Springs.


The other main focus of the plan is the design of the parking space, setting up well-defined entrance and exit points, and limiting the number of parking spaces to approximately 10, which will reduce the number of vehicles currently able to park at the site.


UTTER: The committee very specifically wanted it to be reduced, to help control the use. 21 is the hodepodge of cars you currently shove in there. I think just by design we're going to lose parking, by creating where you enter, where you exit, setbacks from the highway, setbacks from the river -- it's gonna quickly limit what can fit in there.


Credit Pitkin County Open Space and Trails

As part of a streambank stabilization effort, the plan creates one designated route down to the hot springs from the parking area to minimize foot traffic, restore plant life, and reduce erosion.


The most controversial item was the addition of a restroom.


UTTER: In general roughly the liens broke around those who use the site thinking that it maybe wasn't as necessary, versus other groups representing the community feeling that the amount of use there should require a porta-potty on site.


Utter says a porta-potty facility would be installed on a trial basis because of worries that it could attract more non-hot springs users to the site, create waste-issues or add a maintenance burden to county staff.


After some discussion, officials ultimately agreed to move forward with the existing language and move forward with an initial restroom structure, with plans to revisit the subject in the future.


Other details about the management plan including planned improvements, historical information and more can be found online at pitkinOSTprojects.com