A worthy trail
September 6, 2006
I am writing to bring my view in support of the completion of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority midvalley trail between Hooks Spur in Basalt and the Catherine Store bridge in Carbondale.I have had conversations with two local respected organizations whose focus is the appropriate stewardship of our environment and the protection of wildlife and riparian area habitat; namely Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and the Roaring Fork Conservancy. Both of these organizations have been involved for some time by RFTA in the development of this new stretch of trail. They are more than willing to express their opinion and discuss their perspective with you, if you ask.After discussions with both these organizations I feel that RFTA, as a corporate member of our community, has taken the needed steps to act responsibly for the environment along the trail. RFTA, along with these and other organizations, has put a great deal of thought into their planning and development of the new trail. RFTA has spent money needed to repair damage to the natural slope caused in the wake of their development.RFTA has also been sensitive to the concerns that have been raised regarding the negative impacts on the environment and the waterfowl and wildlife, especially the elk that live there. By following recommendations to minimize impacts given by wildlife biologist Jonathon Lowsky, RFTA plans a trail closure to provide safeguards for the habitat and wildlife during their highest use and mating and nesting season.I am not naïve to think that no negative impacts will be felt by the trail development. I am also not in favor of destroying the habitat of any wild creature living along this stretch of river.In a perfect world, we would not do anything, leaving the unused railroad tracks alone with no development. However, this is not a perfect world, and we need to seek reasonable solutions to providing safe trails for humankind to use along the Rio Grande corridor while reducing the negative impacts that development will have on our natural environment.So when it comes to bringing greater safety and accessibility to two-legged creatures – us humans – wanting to travel up- or downvalley in a healthy way, such as biking, I feel that developing the trail is the right thing to do. Better this use than an alternative use activating the defunct railway for a “commuter train.” This other option would bring irreparable damage to the surrounding environment!This being said, I am in favor of the trail’s completion. I also support the closure to protect the nesting of great blue heron and other waterfowl during the fall and winter seasons.I do share expressed concerns about the “policing” of the trail during these recommended closures. I don’t know of any real way to protect against those people who will, under any circumstance, disregard the closure signs and posted “no dog trail” warnings. There are always a few in our society who don’t feel that any rule or law applies to them. I believe that users will abide by the posted warning that the trail is off-limits to users during the winter closure or that “no dogs” really means no dogs, whether on or off-leash.If flagrant abuse of the trail is discovered, then the violators should be arrested and fined. Arrested by whom, you say? I believe I read that RFTA plans to have three people oversee the trail closure, but it seems there is no legal way they can arrest or even ticket violators. These RFTA staff people would be the likely ones to turn the names of violators in to appropriate authorities.Or maybe concerned citizens like you and I can confront them and turn them in? Would the local law enforcement agencies in the adjacent municipalities consider appointing citizens as “deputized trail monitors” authorizing them to cite violators? And more importantly, are you willing to stand at trail end to cite violators?I don’t want to close without saying that I will enjoy the new trail accompanied by very dear friends who are disabled and are handcyclists. I will miss bringing my wonderful dog along, as she will need to stay home!My hope is that this trail will give us another opportunity to learn more about how we can live, play and share habitat in harmony with wild creatures. Please go online at aspentimes.com and VOTE YES for the trail completion.Thank you for allowing me to express my concerns and my thoughts.Jean Owen is “concerned and supportive of the new RFTA trail,” and lives in El Jebel. “Soapbox” runs weekly on the Sunday opinion page as a forum for valley residents to comment on local topics. If you’d like to contribute, contact Naomi Havlen at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, ext. 17624, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.