ASPEN - Pitkin County needs a bridge on the Brush Creek Trail outside Snowmass Village again - or still.
A year ago, what style of bridge to install over the trail's lower crossing of Brush Creek was a matter of debate. The trail has, since 2006, made use of a box culvert that serves private property for the creek crossing. The county's Open Space and Trails program was told in 2011 that the arrangement could not continue, and preparations began for a bridge installation in the spring of 2012. Ultimately, though, use of the private crossing continued for another year.
Now, the question is what happens when the trail, currently closed for the winter to protect wildlife, opens in the spring. The existing agreement to use the culvert has expired.
The trail, which parallels Brush Creek Road between Highway 82 and Snowmass Village, will reopen in mid-April. Dale Will, open space and trails director, recently drafted a memorandum to the open space board and county commissioners, alerting them to the potential need to make a decision that was deferred a year ago. The choices: Install a new, prefabricated bridge to cross the creek and adjacent wetlands at an estimated cost of about $610,000 or reuse old segments of the former Maroon Creek pedestrian bridge at a cost of about $291,000.
When the trail was built, Snowmass Village officials balked at reusing pieces of the old Maroon Creek span for an upper crossing of Brush Creek closer to the resort. The town chipped in half the cost of a pricier bridge.
The town made no recommendation on the style of bridge for the lower creek crossing when it came up in January, but more recently, it requested the installation of a new bridge, Will noted. No financial partnership was suggested, though.
The savings the county would realize by using two 82-foot sections of the secondhand Maroon Creek bridge would go toward other pending projects, according to Will.
If the county installs its own bridge, the work can't proceed until the trail reopens.
The debate is likely to center once again on cost versus aesthetics. Some in the community panned the old Maroon Creek bridge as ugly, but the county still has three pieces of the span available for use somewhere else. A fourth was sold for scrap, and four others were incorporated into Basalt's Willits bike/pedestrian bridge across the Roaring Fork River near Emma.