Big plans laid out for new Aspen trail and improvements at Cozy Point Ranch
Aspen City Council does site visit to city-owned ranch and Maroon Creek Road where a new trail will be built
Aspen City Council on Monday spent a few hours doing site visits at Cozy Point Ranch and the location of a new trail along the western side of Maroon Creek Road as a precursor to what will be a multi-million dollar ask for future capital projects.
As council begins to contemplate the 2023 budget and city officials present their work plans in the coming months, the parks and open space department will be asking for $9 million in capital improvements, according to Matt Kuhn, the department’s director.
“2023 is lining up to be a big year,” he said.
In a typical year, the department spends between $3 million and $5 million on capital projects.
But with the trail hovering around $3 million and improvements necessary for operations at Cozy Point, along with unrelated parks and open space projects, spending will be higher next year, if council agrees.
This year the parks and open space department is projected to generate $15 million in revenue, which is predominately from sales taxes.
Kuhn said the department can afford the planned projects in 2023 because of savings from the past two years when fewer things were done due to the pandemic.
“That conservative budgeting has paid off, so we have enough money to tackle these projects,” he said.
The largest one is the new Maroon Creek multi-use trail that will stretch about 1 mile from the roundabout at Highway 82 to the Aspen Recreation Center on the west side of the road.
Maroon Creek is a heavily used corridor for cyclists going to the Maroon Bells who are currently routed through the Aspen School District campus from the trail system on the east side of the road that ends at the middle school parking lot.
The current connection between the roundabout at Highway 82 and the ARC is a mixture of trail, sidewalk and roadway, according to John Spiess, the city’s open space and natural resource manager.
While functional, the connection lacks clarity and does not provide a snow-free route year-round, he noted.
That’s coupled with concerns about school safety and the rapid adoption of e-bikes, which has added some urgency to provide a more clearly defined multi-modal trail within the corridor.
“There are increased users on that side of the trail,” Spiess said. “It’s almost like it’s a bucket list for people to travel that corridor.”
City staff has worked with consultant OTAK to examine potential alignments for a new 10-foot or 12-foot-wide hard surface multi-use trail on the other side of Maroon Creek Road.
The schematic alignment that is taking shape is generally within 30 feet of the road for the entirety of the alignment with some of the segments being directly adjacent to the street, according to Spiess.
Kuhn said city staff will present the project to the county’s parks and open space board next week to pursue a possible partnership.
If approved by council, construction is slated to begin next summer.
Just a little over $1 million is earmarked for Cozy Point in 2023, with several projects planned for the next five years.
The biggest ticket item slated for next summer at the city-owned, 168-acre property is large scale grading, fence construction and utility infrastructure.
The project, which has been ongoing since 2021, is meant to address significant drainage and safety concerns on the ranch because of a lack of infrastructure.
The second phase of the project also will relocate leach fields and improve the horse paddock area with new fencing and improved footing.
Architectural and permitting work to overhaul the riding arena will cost $75,000 next year with an anticipated $500,000 ask in 2024 for a roof replacement and energy-efficiency improvements of the riding arena.
The arena is a 25,000-square-foot steel framed structure. A visual inspection of the building indicated that the interior and exterior need replacement or a remodel, according to Spiess.
Pursuing a feasibility study for a wildlife corridor near Cozy Point will cost $50,000, according to Spiess.
He and Kuhn said the city is uniquely positioned to participate since the municipal government owns property on both sides of Highway 82 in areas of known wildlife migration and movement.
After initial conversations with Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the city, in partnership with the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, a feasibility study in 2023 will occur.
Just over $1 million is being earmarked for 2024 and 2025 to deal with the boarding facility on the property known as the Butler Barn.
While the barn has seen some upgrades over the past several years to improve safety, the original structure was designed as a private horse facility and does not fully meet the needs as a current publicly owned building, according to Spiess.
In a recent study by an architect, it was suggested that the building will need replacement in the short term because of wear and tear from the operation, as well as the age of the building.
The largest expenditure for Cozy Point Ranch is estimated at $4 million for new housing units but won’t happen until 2027.
Cozy Point Ranch has four permanent residential units onsite, which are used for staff and their families at the equestrian operation, Cozy Point LLC.
There are two temporary units onsite that house four employees for the Farm Collaborative, which is a leasee of the city.
In 2019, the architectural firm Rowland and Broughton developed a preliminary housing master plan for the quad on the property.
The plan looked at replacing the two existing freestanding housing units, adding three additional ones for ranch-employee housing and remodeling the third pan abode as a bunkhouse.
The city bought the ranch in 1994 and now has two tenants — the public equestrian operation and a farm and garden learning center — with areas of wildlife habitat, a public archery range and historic buildings and agricultural activities, according to Spiess and Kuhn.
It is considered an authentic working landscape located at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road and serves as the gateway to Aspen and Snowmass.
Across the Roaring Fork School District, three schools achieved higher ratings from 2019 to 2022, two schools had lower ratings during that time period and most remained the same.