Involvement needed to support new path
January 8, 2007
An open letter to the citizens of the Pitkin County portion of the Crystal River Valley:If you are of voting age, live or own property in the Crystal River Valley, you are a ‘member’ of the Crystal River Valley Caucus and may have your say and vote on any matter at caucus meetings.I understand there will be a meeting of the Crystal River Caucus on Thursday, Jan. 25, regarding the Wildlife Task Force report and Crystal River Bike Path. Since I will be unable to attend the meeting, I’ve chosen to communicate via this letter.I was a caucus board member from its inception until the most recent election in October, 2006. I also was an active participant in the very long process of writing a Master Plan for the caucus area.A bike path along the Crystal River has been needed for many years. As more people bike and drive this beautiful and narrow winding valley, the potential for serious injury or death in bike/vehicular conflicts increases.In the process of writing a Master Plan, a survey of the community was taken – relating to a bike path, the following results were reported: Question: Would you support an on-road bike path within the existing State Highway rightof-way? Results: Support 74 percent, oppose 20 percent.Question: Should the county seek to purchase, with owners consent, the old railroad grade on the east side of the river and have it become open to the public? Results: Support 59 percent, oppose 30 percent.The two issues, wildlife report and bike path, have been linked by some members of the community, in what I would characterize, as a ‘NIMBY’ attempt to keep the old railroad grade from general public accessibility.The preliminary draft of the Wildlife Inventory presented to the caucus at last October’s meeting quoted the “Core Values” statement from the Master Plan, but NOT in its entirety. The last sentence ended at “… we seek to include a bike/pedestrian trail within the existing highway right-of-way” leaving off the rest of the sentence, “and/or on a separate grade where appropriate.” I can only conclude this was a deliberate attempt to mislead as to the content of the Core Values statement.A few years ago, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails purchased a property called Red Wind Point, between the Nettle Creek and Crystal River Country Estates bridges. They also obtained a public use easement along the railroad grade for the portion remaining in private hands. Some residents of CRCE object to public access to the railroad grade, except for their own use; admitting to hiking, biking, riding ATV’s, etc., while expressing the need to keep the general public out for “the sake of the wildlife.” This is public land, bordered to the north by National Forest, paid for by all the taxpayers of Pitkin County and should be accessible when true wildlife concerns are met. It is not a private preserve for adjacent property owners.Prior to 1991, the approximately two mile stretch of railroad grade between the Lower Sewell Tracts (aka BRB subdivision) and Crystal River Country Estates subdivision was in regular use, mostly by residents at either end. Some of the railroad grade was BLM, some was Forest Service and two sections were private property – marked, but with no locked gates. A change in ownership between the BRB and Nettle Creek section resulted in a locked gate and some harassment by the new owner. A petition was circulated, largely within both subdivisions, requesting assistance from Pitkin County in obtaining an adverse possession ruling to keep it open to the public. The county declined. In reviewing the petition recently, I found the signatures of some of the currently more vocal opponents of public access to the Red Wind Point public land. How do you spell hypocrite?Please, people – if you want to have a bike path along the Crystal with the possibility of hiking or biking outside of the highway-right-of way, attend this and any future meetings, or it is possible a small group of NIMBY’s will become the voice of the Crystal River Valley.Lee Beck is a resident of Carbondale.