Castle Creek trail a go
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Construction of a bicycle/pedestrian trail up a short segment of Castle Creek Road will proceed despite the objections of a roomful of area residents Monday at a special meeting of the Pitkin County commissioners.
With three commissioners present, two of them supported moving forward quickly, though they called for another look at the trail landscaping plan and possibly augmenting traffic management during construction with flaggers to direct traffic at peak hours. The project will require the closure of the downvalley lane of the road from the Marolt Ranch housing complex to the Aspen Music Festival and School campus until mid-October.
The traffic impacts, aesthetics of a retaining wall that will be visible to adjacent landowners and the actual need for the trail were all targets for criticism, though many opponents of the project agreed some type of safer pedestrian footpath along the road is necessary.
“This is probably the most environmentally insensitive plan I’ve seen,” said Castle Creek Road resident David Press, suggesting upwards of 400 trees and other mature vegetation will be cut down to build the trail. Dale Will, county director of Open Space and Trails, put the estimate at 40 trees.
“We’re not going to get a more environmentally sensitive trail along this alignment. It can’t be done,” said Boots Ferguson, a member of the Aspen Open Space board. “Now is the time to do it.”
The city will split the $1.9 million cost of the paved trail with the county. The path is to be built along the east, or downvalley side of the road for some 3,000 feet.
Though virtually everyone agreed delaying the project would only increase the price tag, Commissioner Michael Owsley urged commissioners to put off construction for two months, likely delaying it until next spring when the traffic impacts won’t be as significant. The delay will give the county time to build consensus for the project in the neighborhood, he argued. Area residents complained they were left out of the process until they found out about the plan shortly before construction was set to commence this week.
Attorney David Lenyo, representing at least two Castle Creek Road property owners, said the project hadn’t been subjected to the proper land-use review process and suggested it could be open to a legal challenge. The project went through the required steps, countered John Ely, county attorney.
But much of Monday’s lengthy hearing focused on who would use the trail.
The many road bikers who ride up and down the valley will likely continue to use the roadway, most agreed, but music students and youngsters were pegged as likely trail users.
Castle Creek Road resident Dick Butera questioned the cost benefit of a $1.9 million trail that perhaps a dozen music students a day would use for the nine-week summer festival season.
“Our proportionality is getting way, way out of whack,” he said.
Music students say they’d rather use the bus service to and from the campus than walk alongside traffic, added area resident Bob Rafelson, also questioning the need for the trail.
“It’s a little bit like making your home safe from tigers. Yes, but we have no tigers here,” he said.
But, representatives of both the music festival and Aspen Country Day School, which uses the campus during the school year, predicted the trail would see use by their students and faculty.
That relatively few music students walk along the road now is “more a testament to the danger of the road rather than that nobody wants to be a pedestrian for 3,000 feet,” said Alan Fletcher, president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School.
“It’s going to save a life, I’m sure,” said Aspenite David Bentley regarding the trail. “I think the safety issue trumps everything. I hope you get it built without further delay.”
“David Bentley is absolutely right,” added Aspenite Jon Busch. “I want you to consider what is the cost of a human life, because that’s what it comes down to.”
The section of the road slated for the trail features little or no shoulder in some areas, and a blind curve.
Both Commissioners Patti Clapper and Rachel Richards agreed to move the project forward, and Richards noted the safety issue.
“I want to be ahead of a potential tragedy on this road,” she said.
Kiewit Construction, the contractor for the project, plans to install signals to allow alternating traffic on the one lane of Castle Creek Road that will remain open; commissioners said they’d like to see delays of less than 10 minutes for queued traffic and flaggers to assist during busy periods of the day.
Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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