Crystal River Trail plan advances |

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Crystal River Trail plan advances

CARBONDALE ” The long-awaited Crystal River Trail got a big symbolic boost this week when the Crys­tal River Caucus voted overwhelmingly to support construction of a section south of Carbondale.

By a vote of 44-2, according to one official, the caucus on Thursday night formalized its earlier conceptual nod to the project.

This segment of the longer Crystal River Trail is a 5.3- mile bike path that will parallel and, in some stretches, hug Highway 133 with nothing but a guardrail between the cars and the bikes.

It will be 10 feet to 12 feet wide (depending on topography), be paved with asphalt and have a “soft-surface” parallel trail 4 feet wide, except in certain tight sections. The portion of the trail approved by the caucus vote is to run between Snowmass Drive at the southern edge of Carbondale to what is known as the BRB Bridge, adjacent to the BRB Crystal River Resort.

County staffers working on the project have begun the process of seeking permits from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

And the funding for the trail, which is esti­mated to cost more than $ 4 million, is basi­cally waiting to be spent, officials said this week.

Still, trail officials are not sure if major con­struction will begin this fall or next spring, largely because of the complexities of getting the required CDOT permits.

Dale Will, head of the county’s open space and trails department, said this week that more than 97 percent of the trail is located within right-of-way owned by CDOT, with the rest on private land for which easements already have been obtained.

Project manager Tom Newland, a consult­ant, said that for much of its length, the trail is 30 feet to 40 feet away from the road surface, hugging instead the fence line that separates the public right of way from private land. But in certain tight sections, he said, the trail is right alongside the highway.

Newland said considerable time has been spent already on the CDOT permits, which he said are still relatively new to the trans­portation agency’s arsenal of regulatory resources.

“If they can get them done in a month,” Newland said hopefully, “then we could be doing some major work later this summer or early in the fall.”

But what he is really hoping for, he said, is for the necessary permits to be granted in time for crews to set culverts in place to pro­tect irrigation ditches.

He said the trail will be right on top of at least one ditch for a distance, necessitating a long culvert, as well as several shorter ones. And work to put culverts in place and install them properly cannot be done until the irri­gating season is over and the ditches are shut down, in the late fall.

The funding for the project will come from a combination of grants and local govern­ment coffers.

Will said that while an exact price tag for the project is not known yet, “our best esti­mate right now is $ 4.5 million for the whole thing.” Cost, he said, depends on timing and on the volatile construction industry.

Will said about three quarters of the project will be funded from a variety of sources, including a $ 1 million grant from Great Out­doors Colorado, which gets its money from the Colorado Lottery.

Also in the pot, Will said, is $50,000 pledged last year by Garfield County, with another $50,000 expected this year; a private $50,000 donation from neighboring landowner Richard Jellinek, and money from the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails fund.

Jeff Jackel, recreation director for the town of Carbondale, said his government has agreed to pay for the trail’s construction between Snowmass Drive and Prince Creek Road, equal to about a quarter of the trail’s length at the south end of Carbondale.

The town is putting in $135,000, Jackel said, to supplement a grant of $ 86,000 from the Safe Routes to School organization, and $112,000 from the Great Outdoors Colorado fund.

If more is needed because of rising con­struction costs, Jackel said, the Carbondale Board of Trustees would have to be approached for some of the town’s recreation fund.

The intention of the trail’s advocates ulti­mately is to complete a bicycling and pedes­trian trail that will stretch from the Roaring Fork River all the way to Crested Butte in Gun­nison County, along the West Elk Scenic Loop Byway route.

Talk of the trail, which has been going on for years, has raised concerns and opposition from neighbors about certain aspects of the plan.

Will said that based in part on neighbors’ objections and in part on a study by wildlife expert Jonathan Lowsky that corroborated neighbors’ concerns about the trail’s potential impact on wildlife, it was decided to avoid the area known as Filoha Meadows several miles downriver from Redstone and the Red Wind Point area.