Crystal Trail plans start to crystallize |

Crystal Trail plans start to crystallize

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” Construction of the long-awaited Crystal Valley Trail south of Carbondale could start in the summer and be finished by the winter, according to a Pitkin County official.

“The Crystal Trail has been on the table for so long, we’d better get it built soon or people are going to stop taking it seriously,” said Dale Will, director of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program.

Pitkin County commissioners are expected on April 8 to approve an intergovernmental agreement with Garfield County, accepting $100,000 from Garfield County to be put toward the project’s estimated price tag of $3.5 million.

The money will pay for construction of a trail between Snowmass Drive on the south side of Carbondale to the BRB Campground several miles south of town.

Garfield County had earlier contributed $100,000 toward the project, for a total of $200,000, Will said, and the town of Carbondale has contributed a similar amount.

In addition, Will said, the Great Outdoors Colorado program has contributed $1 million as part of the Crystal Watershed Legacy Grant. Known as GoCo, the program diverts income from the Colorado Lottery into wildlife, parks, trails and open space efforts at the state and local level.

The rest of the money for the trail is to come from the Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails fund, which is a tax-supported account.

Will has been working on the Crystal Trail project for several years, sometimes in the face of controversy over exactly where the trail would run.

The portion of the trail to be built this summer is five miles long, and is part of a much broader project to extend pedestrian and biking trails up to the crest of McClure Pass on Colorado Highway 133. At that point, it is to link up with a similar trail building effort coming up the other side of the pass from Gunnison County, providing a trail link all the way to Crested Butte.

In some places, the trail will be built on easements granted by ranchers on the meadows that stretch way below the level of the highway, as a way of separating bicycles from automobiles.

And, said Will, some sections are to be placed on top of irrigation ditches, which will be sheathed in culverts provided by the county in return for ranchers’ permission to build the trail on easements across private land.

In particular, Will said, right-of-way easements were part of recent county approvals of the Cold Mountain Ranch, a joint agricultural preservation agreement involving the Fales and Perry ranching families.

Will said he has yet to secure permits from the Colorado Department of Transportation, and that he has not yet issued formal requests for proposals to get bids from contractors to do the work, so the actual price tag of the project is still unknown, as is the exact start date.

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