Crown parking lot construction to begin soon |

Crown parking lot construction to begin soon

Construction of a new parking lot off Prince Creek Road for mountain bikers and others who want to access the Crown trail network should begin by the end of the month, Pitkin County officials said Thursday.

The project will hopefully put an end to area resident complaints — which have surfaced again this spring — about haphazard parking along the road by bikers and hikers, said Lindsey Utter, head of planning and outreach for the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program.

“Hopefully by the fall … we’ll have a better parking scenario out there,” Utter said.

A contractor for the project has been chosen, though the contract to build the 35-space lot on the lower portion of Prince Creek Road has not yet been signed, said G.R. Fielding, Pitkin County engineer. That contract should be signed soon, he said.

Fielding said he expects construction of the parking area on a 5-acre parcel owned by the county and known as the “Bull Pen” to begin in late May or early June and be completed by July 15. The $195,000 project was approved by Pitkin County commissioners in March and will be paid for using funds from the open space program, which is supported by a property tax.

The lot — which will include landscaping, bathrooms, signs and a speed table crosswalk across Prince Creek Road — will be constructed on the east side of the road. Volunteers built a 1.4-mile trail last fall with parallel uphill and downhill routes along the north side of the road that runs from the parking area to The Crown trail network on Bureau of Land Management property.

The trail was meant to improve safety by keeping bikers and hikers off narrow sections of the road and has been a success so far, Utter said.

“It’s getting a lot of use,” she said. “It seems like people enjoy it.”

Both Utter and Fielding said the county has received parking complaints from residents this spring. Mountain bikers often park their vehicles near the entrance to the Prince Creek subdivision about 3 miles off Highway 133 that create headaches for residents.

The Crown trails are most popular in the spring and fall when trails in the upper valley are closed or inaccessible, and open space rangers have been maintaining a presence in the area to try to educate people about the parking situation. About a dozen temporary “no parking” signs have been placed along the road in certain spots this spring, Fielding said.

People seem to be minding the signs so far, he said.

Open space officials also are trying to encourage people to adopt a “Town to Crown” mentality in which they park in Carbondale or Willits and ride to the Crown trailheads, Utter said.

Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said spring is always busy time at The Crown and that his organization has been trying to get the word out for bikers to ride from town. He said he hopes the new parking lot will alleviate the parking problems that have plagued the area for at least the past decade.

“We’re very excited (about the lot),” Pritchard said. “It will make a big difference.”