Castle Creek trail becomes priority |

Castle Creek trail becomes priority

Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday reprioritized building a trail along Castle Creek Road to the Aspen Music Festival and School.

The trail, which also would be utilized by Aspen Country Day School students, has been delayed since 2008, said Gary Tennenbaum, director of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program.

Now, however, both staff from the city of Aspen and Pitkin County are looking at ways to begin planning the nearly mile-long trail in 2017 and building it in 2018, Tennenbaum said.

“I definitely want to see us pursue this,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said.

Commissioners Steve Child and George Newman both said they were for getting the trail built because of the danger posed to bicyclists and pedestrians by the narrow, winding Castle Creek Road.

“To me this is a safety issue,” Child said. “Children’s lives and music students’ lives are at risk.”

The $1.9 million trail from the Marolt Open Space near Aspen Valley Hospital to the music school campus was first set to be constructed in 2007. However, 13 Castle Creek residents filed a lawsuit, which halted work on the trail.

Tennenbaum said the lawsuit has been settled, though he didn’t know details of the settlement. Attempts to reach Pitkin County Attorney John Ely on Tuesday about the settlement were not successful.

Nevertheless, both the city and county open space boards recently voted to support the trail, while Aspen city councilors will address a funding request to begin planning the trail in a month, said Austin Weiss, the city’s open space manager.

Jenny Elliot, music school senior vice president, and Scott Hicks, business manager for Aspen Country Day School, both lobbied commissioners to build the trail Tuesday.

“Safety is the primary driver for the trail,” Elliot said.

The two showed a video Tuesday featuring footage of both young children and their parents riding along Castle Creek Road as well as music students. The video showed large trucks and cars going around bicyclists and pedestrians, while students spoke of close calls — including cars that nearly hit their arms on the way past — and the general lack of safety while biking or walking on Castle Creek Road.

Commissioner Rachel Richards acknowledged the danger to students but also pointed out another problem with pedestrian and bike traffic on the road.

“The current situation is dangerous for motorists, as well,” she said.

Elliot also said the music school has $250,000 available to help build the trail, which she said could possibly be used for planning or construction.

The board’s decision to prioritize the Castle Creek trail means staff can start working on funding options and later bring those back to commissioners for approval.