Crystal trail deserves Garfield County support
August 18, 2005
The Garfield County commissioners understandably balked at making a hasty decision this week on whether to help fund the first segment of a trail that will someday stretch from Carbondale to the top of McClure Pass.The town of Carbondale and Pitkin County are asking the commissioners to commit between $140,000 and $390,000 to trail construction. The amount depends on how much grant money is received for the project.Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, the board’s chairman, said the county’s funding decision must be made during the county’s 2006 budget discussions, when all similar requests are in front of the commissioners. That’s reasonable.When the time comes this fall, however, we hope Garfield County ponies up. Here’s why:Carbondale has committed to build about one mile of trail, stretching beyond its boundary and into Garfield County. That’s a good-faith effort to pick up some of the slack for a trail segment that is important to many of its constituents.Pitkin County Trails and Open Space has earmarked $813,000 for a two-mile stretch from the county line to Thompson Creek, where the county already owns a piece of open space.Both Carbondale and Pitkin County intend to pursue their trail segments in 2006. Between those two segments, however, is Garfield County’s one-mile stretch.That Garfield County portion is critical because it includes a proposed new pedestrian bridge over the Crystal River. Without Garfield County’s participation, trail users will be forced onto Highway 133 for one mile. People walking, running or riding bicycles from Carbondale to Redstone will be able to use the trail for nearly one mile along the east side of Highway 133. After reaching the Garfield County line, however, they will be forced onto the shoulder of the highway.To travel on the right side of the road, bicyclists will have to cross an increasingly busy highway. They’ll have to do it all over again when they enter Pitkin County and the trail resumes on the highway’s east side. Trail users on foot who don’t also cross the road will have to walk into oncoming highway traffic.That scenario is clearly unsafe and unacceptable, especially for families riding bicycles or walking with young children. Many of those trail users will come from Carbondale, which is part of Garfield County.Certainly, the Garfield commissioners have an obligation to consider funding for trail projects from all areas of their vast county. But priority should be given to projects where funding is being provided from other entities and cooperation is vital to overall success. In this case, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails has promised to commit all of the grant money it receives for the project.Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt acknowledged as much this week and made it clear she wants to find the money.Martin didn’t indicate support or opposition to contributing to the Crystal Trail, and Commissioner Larry McCown was silent on the topic.Come 2006 budget deliberations, we hope all three commissioners will support the Crystal Valley Trail.