Connector trail from roundabout to Aspen Recreation Center starts to roll
Cyclists are currently navigated through Aspen schools campus to get to ARC; Maroon Bells
The long-awaited multi-use trail connection between the roundabout and the Aspen Recreation Center is gaining momentum, as elected officials this week approved a contract for the design, planning and engineering of the alignment that will be located on the west side of Maroon Creek 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 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.
“It becomes so confusing for people (at the school campus),” he said Thursday in an interview. “We’ve had some temporary measures in place but I think everyone recognizes it’s a dangerous area, especially with e-bikes and their popularity and the speed they travel.”
The initial design of the project was originally scheduled to begin next year but with the explosion of e-bikes there’s a sense of urgency to provide a more clearly defined multi-modal trail within the corridor, Spiess noted.
Aspen City Council on Tuesday approved a $122,530 contract with consultant OTAK for the initial work, and discussed the importance of the connection the day prior in a work session while considering whether to ask voters in the fall of 2022 to reauthorize a 0.5% open space sales tax that funds projects like the Maroon Creek multi-use trail.
“This is a major community need to essentially connect town up to the ARC and beyond with a much more user-friendly and more viable connection than what we have today,” Austin Weiss, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said during Monday’s work session. “We’ve worked with the school district over the years and have a great partnership with them but the reality is it’s a mismatch there because it’s hard to navigate through the campus. There are some conflicting priorities with student safety and public access.
“When you look at the e-bike pelotons that are leaving town throughout the summer and heading to the Maroon Bells this is going to be an absolutely critical connection made to make that safer for everyone.”
Spiess said the open space and parks and recreation team will meet with OTAK in the coming weeks and will begin their work to connect with stakeholders like Pitkin County, which owns the adjacent Moore Open Space, and a private property owner along the proposed trail.
Schematic designs and cost estimates for the one-mile trail are expected by May.
OTAK will develop alternatives that consider a variety of site complexities, including topography, private and public lands, existing and proposed easements, protection of native habitat, road crossings, connections to existing trails and the increased variety of multi-modal devices within the existing system, according to Spiess.
OTAK will work with city officials to develop three alternative alignments that will be evaluated using a matrix that considers the complexity of the site and the suitability of the solution within the context of the project.
Staff will present the preferred alternative to the public, stakeholders, the city’s open space and trails board and council for comment.
Further refinement of the preferred alternative following the comment period will lead to a final schematic design and set the stage for phase two of the project, according to Spiess.
Project Resource Studio, a subconsultant to OTAK, will work with the city’s communication department to develop a public outreach campaign around the project.
Construction of the trail is anticipated to occur during the summer of 2023.
With many lingering questions still surrounding the fate of Aspen’s historic Old Powerhouse, City Council decided during Monday’s work session to hold off on providing staff direction on moving the preservation project forward until more information can be presented.