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Bridge plan put on hold

Allyn Harvey

Residents of the Meadowood subdivision prevailed yesterday in convincing the county commissioners to delay construction of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Castle Creek Road.

The bridge is one of two proposed by the parks department to make it safer for children to reach the public schools and Iselin Park recreational facilities, but it has been a source of controversy for much of the summer.

The bridges would cross Castle Creek Road and Maroon Creek Road near the roundabout. They were initially approved after an administrative review by the community planning department. That decision was upheld on appeal by a hearing officer. Yesterday’s hearing was an appeal of the hearing examiner’s decision.

Residents of Meadowood showed up in force, and one after another criticized the proposal for adversely affecting their views of the Marolt open space. They said construction of an “unsightly” and “massive” pedestrian bridge was in direct opposition to the county’s longstanding policy of burying utility lines and limiting signage to preserve the views of the mountains.

“The scenic overlay exists for a reason. We limit signs for a reason. We’ve taxed ourselves to bury utility lines for a reason. It distresses me that we are chipping away at that,” said Fred Peirce, a local attorney who rides his bicycle to the hospital and schools regularly.

The commissioners voted 4-0 to delay their final decision on the Castle Creek bridge and directed the parks staff to look into either moving the bridge closer to Aspen Valley Hospital or digging an underpass. They denied the appeal of the Maroon Creek bridge, and construction is expected later this fall. The vote means no work will be done on a Castle Creek Road crossing until next spring, at the earliest.

Not everyone who testified was opposed to the wood bridge, which would cross in front of the Aspen Chapel.

Two Aspen city councilmen – Tony Hershey and Terry Paulson – urged the commissioners to deny the appeal. Hershey agreed with planner Kevin Dunnett that an underpass would be costly, requiring utility relocations and rerouting of the road during construction. He also reiterated Dunnett’s point that the highway underpass in El Jebel has been the site of a rape and other crimes.

The Meadowood residents and most other opponents weren’t hearing any of it. One said better lighting would diminish the crime threat. And none of them bought into Paulson’s worries that relocation of the path and crossing could make it more dangerous for paragliders, who land on the open space parcel across from the hospital.

Many wondered if anyone would actually use the bridge. Several adults who bicycle regularly in the area said they would never use the trail and bridge as proposed by the parks department, even if it was the shortest, flattest way into town.

No children who bike to school were on hand to testify for or against the bridge, but County Commissioner Shellie Harper said her son takes the route planned by the parks department because it’s shorter and flatter.


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