County moves to hand over park |

County moves to hand over park

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County has taken a step toward turning Mollie Gibson Park over to the city of Aspen, despite uncertainty about its ownership.

The Board of County Commissioners Wednesday passed on first reading an intergovernmental agreement with Aspen that will eliminate all further county responsibility for maintenance of the park, located at the base of Smuggler Mountain.

The BOCC last year agreed to convey the park to the city, but conveyance of the parcel has been blocked by Smuggler landowner Wilk Wilkinson. He says he owns certain rights to the land, or at least part of it. Wilkinson has been keeping vehicles belonging to himself and others in a parking lot on the edge of the park as a way of asserting his claim of ownership of the land.

Wilkinson claims that when Aspenite Jay Kuhne sold the Molly Gibson Park property to the county as part of the Centennial project, he only conveyed the surface rights. According to Wilkinson, tunnel rights, as well as the mineral rights, were separated from the property in the 1900s, and became his because they were attached to mining claims he owns.

Pitkin County doesn’t think Wilkinson’s claims are valid, but the city of Aspen is not willing to accept title to the property until the county is able to ensure that the title does not have legal “clouds” on it based on Wilkinson’s claims.

So the county has filed a “quiet title” action that would eliminate Wilkinson’s claims to the property if it is successful.

Commissioner Patti Clapper suggested that parking spaces are not essential in the neighborhood anyway, and suggested that park users and those who recreate on Smuggler Mountain should consider using a shuttle bus or walking to the park.

As part of the agreement, Pitkin County will transfer $7,400 to the city for park improvements, including the replacement of six bristlecone pine trees and repair of a washed-out trail.

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