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Vehicle Access to Maroon Bells Closed due to Government Shutdown

Snowpeak via Flickr (CC BY)

The government shutdown in Washington is limiting access to one Colorado’s most visited places: the Maroon Bells. The road outside of Aspen closed to traffic yesterday during prime leaf-peeping season. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

The White River National Forest closed its facilities in the area Tuesday morning. Bathrooms are locked and campgrounds shuttered. The agency barricaded the popular parking areas just below the famed peaks. Pitkin County owns the two-lane road leading to the Bells. And, yesterday county commissioners were grappling with what to do.

The group seemed frustrated with the situation they were dealt by lawmakers’ actions in Washington. The commissioners discussed sending a letter of disapproval to Congressman Scott Tipton. As for the road, the elected leaders chose to close it.

"I think public safety-wise and managing the human impact, this is probably the right decision even though it’s not going to be very popular," says Brian Pettet.

Pettet is the County’s Public Works Director. With the parking lots barricaded, cars would have to park along the roadside, leaving a public safety nightmare during one of the area’s busiest times. Julia Theisen with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association says the closure is disappointing.

"The Maroon Bells is one of the most iconic locations we have in this area and many, if not the majority, of our visitors in summer and fall enjoy going out to the Maroon Bells. In the fall, it is one of the main places to look at the beautiful colors," she says.

She says her office has been taking calls from visitors asking when the colors will peak. Unfortunately, she says, that’s happening now.

"It is a bummer. And, unfortunately there's not much we can do about it except to ask them (the tourists) to stay and enjoy views elsewhere. Hopefully, it’s a short-term problem, but we’ll see."

She’s directing visitors wishing to see the colors change, to places like Independence Pass and Ashcroft. Meanwhile, cyclists and pedestrians can still access the Maroon Bells.