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Aspen nature trail exposes neighbors

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” A new trail on the east end of Aspen will put users within feet of nearby residents’ bedroom windows.

The Aspen City Council in a 4-1 vote Tuesday approved constructing the East of Aspen Trail, which will connect Snyder Park to the area off McSkimming Road.

The decision flies in the face of area homeowners who live in a subdivision near Alpine Court and will have hundreds of hikers and mountain bikers traveling within feet of their property.



“The trail is an arm’s length away,” said homeowner Ken Nichols of where his deck and hot tub sit in his backyard. “It’s a big imposition.”

Council members agreed, with the exception of Mayor Mick Ireland who cast the dissenting vote, that homeowners should have known that a trail could be constructed since the city of Aspen was granted an easement along the Salvation Ditch in 1974.




The majority of the council also agreed the trail will provide a safe alternative for residents who live on the east side of Aspen to get into town without navigating treacherous and dangerous conditions along Highway 82.

Council members said the community benefit of a trail outweighs neighbors’ privacy, however nasty and unfair that trade-off might be.

While Ireland agreed that biking and walking along Highway 82 out of town toward Independence Pass is a serious public safety issue, he said a short single track trail is not worth creating tension between neighbors and users.

“This, to me, is not a make-or-break trail,” he said.

Jody Edwards, a lawyer representing the Woerndle Subdivision Homeowners’ Association, argued that having a trail run along a dangerous ditch within feet of private property is problematic for several reasons.

He said the trail is not a friendly location for users or residents. Users will be so close to homes they’ll feel like they are trespassing and residents will lose their sense of privacy. Edwards also argued that there’s the potential conflict between dogs of homeowners and trail users, as well their children.

“You’ll have dog bites and dog fights,” he said, adding the $90,000 cost of the trail is too great of a taxpayer expense without solving the larger safety issue.

Also, nearly two dozen trees will be removed to make way for the trail, as well as several more that will be trimmed, exposing property owners even more.

Aspen’s parks and open space trail board and city staff have been attempting to work with neighbors for the past two years but the two sides came to an impasse.

Construction on the first phase of the trail will begin this summer. The entire cost of the East of Aspen Trail, which includes two phases, is estimated at $350,000.

The council rejected the homeowners’ association offer to pay the full cost of an alternative trail that would have been parallel but above Highway 82, running to Alpine Court, where the Snyder Trail begins and leads to the park off of Midland Avenue. The estimated cost of the alternative trail is $42,000 and would have been paved.

Recognizing a serious public safety issue for pedestrians and bikers traveling in and out of town on Highway 82, the City Council directed the city’s engineering department to make that area a high priority for creating a sidewalk system, which could cost upwards of $300,000.

“I’m surprised we haven’t had an accident there,” said City Councilman Dwayne Romero. “I generally support the trail but I really want the public safety addressed on Highway 82.”

csack@aspentimes.com

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