Bridge could be built over Castle Creek Road by July |

Bridge could be built over Castle Creek Road by July

Jeremy Heiman

A pedestrian bridge over Castle Creek Road is expected to be in place by July.

A decision Wednesday by the Pitkin County Commissioners will allow the construction of the bridge to go forward. The commissioners unanimously denied an appeal against a hearing officer’s decision to approve the project last fall.

After the commissioners’ decision, city of Aspen Parks Manager Jeff Woods said a contract with Gould Construction would probably be signed within “a couple of weeks,” and construction could begin soon after that. Gould put up a similar trail bridge over Maroon Creek Road last fall. The project could be done quickly.

“Our goal is to have it in place by the first of July,” Woods said.

The bridge is part of the city’s trail system, though it will be funded primarily by the county’s Open Space and Trails program.

The bridge site is adjacent to the Aspen Chapel. It will cross Castle Creek Road just north of the pond built in the Marolt open space and connect to the span over Maroon Creek Road.

The bridge is a part of a plan by the city Parks Department to create a “seamless” paved trail system to allow children to bike or walk from town to the school campus on Maroon Creek Road without crossing traffic. It will also serve bicycle commuters and will connect segments of groomed cross-county ski trails.

Bridge opponents feared it would block views of the Castle Creek Valley from Highway 82 and called for other sites to be studied. An engineering study completed over the winter compared the location with three alternative sites farther up the road.

Citizens both opposed to and in support of the bridge turned out before Wednesday’s hearing.

“I contend that this is a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the scenic overlay designation,” said George Wombwell, a participant in the appeal.

Rev. Gregg Anderson of the Aspen Chapel asked the commissioners to hold off on building the bridge.

“Maybe a pedestrian light is something we should consider,” Anderson said. His idea was seconded by Meadowood resident Jim Jenkins.

“I don’t think we need a bridge,” Jenkins said. “I think people can walk across the street.”

And John Kelleher, a resident of the neighborhood, complained that the bridge would block the view of Red Butte now enjoyed by those driving north on Castle Creek Road.

But Ben Dodge, trails coordinator for the Aspen Nordic Council and for the city of Aspen, argued that safety has to come before scenic considerations.

“I think it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt there,” Dodge said. The commissioners weighed in on the side of the bridge.

“I agree with all these aesthetic concerns,” said Commissioner Dorothea Farris, “but safety is the most important.”

Commission Chairman Mick Ireland observed that a crosswalk with a traffic light could back up traffic into the roundabout. A tunnel at that location, he said, might not be used by school children.

“If you make kids go too far down and back up, they won’t use the facility at all,” he said.

“I’m going to have to put safety over scenic,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper.

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