On the trail: Golden example of what could be | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Golden example of what could be

Scott Condon/The Aspen TimesThe bank along Clear Creek near downtown Golden has paved patios and interesting nooks where sightseers can hang out. There is a 2-mile path along the creek, west of downtown, that is heavily used throughout the year. The creek is crowded with people in kayaks and tubes during the summer month, while gawkers hang out on the banks.

GOLDEN, Colo. – I got a good glimpse last weekend of what Basalt can be.

I visited my brother in Golden, and we ate breakfast downtown Sunday with our wives. Clear Creek runs perpendicular to the town’s main street, but the stream bank is very accessible and draws people in, even on a January morning.

After finishing breakfast, we went for a stroll around 10:30 a.m. We weren’t alone. A fair number of joggers, cyclists, young parents pushing strollers and scores of walkers were out on the path.

There’s a paved path on either side of the creek for a distance of less than a mile. A few strategic bridges let pedestrians cross over every now and then. Beyond the end of the pavement west of downtown, pedestrians and cyclists can continue on an unpaved route that winds through woods for a little more than a mile. We hit our dead end roughly 30 minutes and two miles after leaving the main street. We were able to make our outing into a loop walk on the opposite side of the creek.

Close to the downtown core, along the paved part of the trail, the city of Golden has constructed some paved patios adorned with sculpture. One in particular made me think of Basalt because it featured three fat trout. Another stretch of the trail passes by a living history display featuring a replica homestead typical of Golden in the 1860s. A dozen or so exotic breeds of chickens in a coop prove to be a popular draw.

The temperatures were in the 50s, so it was warm enough to bring out loads of people. Our stroll was over at noon, so I imagine the numbers just kept growing. The creek was mostly frozen over, and it was cool enough to prevent people from lollygagging on the patios and alluring parts of the stream bank. But I’ve been there in the summer, when hundreds of kayakers and tubers splash their way down the creek and hundreds more gawkers check out the action from the stream side.

I couldn’t help thinking of Basalt while walking along Clear Creek. There’s a lot of concern right now about keeping downtown Basalt vital. Ideas such as special lights and intricate signs are being discussed. I think they’re just gimmicks. All Basalt needs to do is develop some truly attractive walking trails along its first-class rivers.

Civic leaders worked on a plan a decade or so ago that serves as a blueprint for what Basalt wants to do along its riverfronts. It’s mostly collecting dust. The confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers should be the coolest outdoor space in the valley. Instead, it’s a place where you’d expect to encounter a wino sipping from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. Imagine being able to walk from Fishermen’s Park, on the east side of Two Rivers Road, down to Old Pond Park along the Roaring Fork River and from Pueblo Bridge to Confluence Park on the Fryingpan River.

Too much development has probably occurred, and the town probably didn’t secure all the easements from private-property owners necessary for a trail, but it’s a sweet dream – and one that would keep Basalt’s downtown vital.