Crystal trail takes step forward
PITKIN COUNTY After months of tension over a proposed trail from Carbondale to Redstone, residents met with the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board to open what trail opponents and proponents agree will be an ongoing dialogue.There was consensual approval Wednesday for the first phase of the project along the Crystal River Valley – a five-mile segment of multiuse trail crossing parts of Carbondale, Garfield County and Pitkin County. But the steps to final approval will be more involved, according to Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.That’s because planners require permission from the Colorado Department of Transportation to use the Highway 133 right of way, and the project will need financing, Will said.Discussion about future sections of the trail extending south toward Marble – and eventually as far as Crested Butte – raised questions about impacts to sensitive wildlife areas and whether the trail should stay near the highway or divert in some areas.But Wednesday was the first of many chances for area residents to chime in, according to Tim McFlynn, chairman of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board.”We want to make sure [the process] is clear, transparent and fully informed,” McFlynn said. “We want to take our time and do it right.”Some Crystal River Valley residents expressed concerns that diverting the trail from the highway right of way would disturb wildlife, and others said that if the trail stayed near the road, auto fumes and traffic noise would spoil the experience for hikers and bikers.”I’m a trail user, a biker and I walk. I think trails are great,” said John Emerick, professor emeritus for the Colorado School of Mines. But, Emerick added, he is concerned about the effects of people, and especially dogs, on wildlife in certain areas.”It’s not an issue of whether we have the trail or not; it’s an issue of what the alignment will be,” said John Stickney, a valley resident who said he favors moving the trail away from Highway 133 – to wherever possible.Tom McBrayer, chairman of the Crystal River Caucus, said some of the issues in the planned later phases of the trail, especially near Filoha Meadows at Jane Way and near Red Wind Point in Redstone, are “insurmountable.” Still, he called Wednesday’s meeting a good start and a chance for everyone to stay involved.”They made it clear the decisions haven’t been made,” McBrayer said. “That’s why we love living in a democracy.””I thought it was a good meeting,” said Bill Hanks, a member of the wildlife task force that studied the effects of a potential trail in the valley. “Any time you can communicate, the chances of making a good decision are good.”Will said the controversy over the details for future plans for other sections of the trail has taken away from the task at hand, namely achieving CDOT approval and finding funding for the trail from Carbondale to the BRB Crystal River Resort.Will said he also was pleased with the open communication at the meeting.Members of the open space board were reluctant to speculate about the cost of the trail between Carbondale and the BRB resort, but a 2004 estimate put the Pitkin County portion of trail at $900,000, a figure Will said was outdated with increases in construction costs.The town of Carbondale has budgeted $137,000 for the project, and Will expects an $80,000 state grant.The Garfield County section, which includes a bridge crossing over the Crystal River, is backed by $50,000 in county funds and a $50,000 grant from conservationist Richard Jelinek.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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