Crystal Valley hot on the trail
December 29, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoREDSTONE A Crystal River Caucus meeting Thursday will give valley residents a forum to air their views on their section of a proposed bike path from Carbondale to Crested Butte.A recent survey of the caucus area, which extends along the Crystal River and Highway 133 from near Carbondale, showed broad support for a bike path along the highway right of way. The area master plan also calls for such a trail, and there are further plans for a 53-mile multipurpose trail that would connect Carbondale with Crested Butte.The trail is a complicated proposal, crossing both Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands, and private property in some areas, said Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.”There’s a group of people who are trying to block the bike trail at Red Wind Point,” said Beverly Goss, a Redstone resident and a member of the caucus. It’s a “not in my back yard” position, she said, but the trail is really a valleywide issue, she stressed. The trail would cross some sensitive areas, Goss said, but she is against “changing the master plan to suit a few people who live along a certain area.””There are always some people who feel very strongly and are not willing to accept something even though it would be better for the broader group of people,” Goss said. “I think everybody should be there to listen and decide.”Red Wind Point, an area north of Redstone, is not only a sticking point for the proposed trail, but of controversy over access the county open space parcel that is inaccessible to the public.Open Space and Trails officials want access to the Red Wind open space area via an old railroad bed on the east side of the river. They plan to build a footbridge to cross the Crystal River from the west side where the highway runs, and eventually they’d like to extend the trail through the Red Wind area. But some valley residents, especially residents of the Crystal River Country Estates subdivision next to Red Wind Point, are against access to the property or the proposed trail.At a meeting in October, Crystal caucus members selected a new slate of officers in a controversial election some are calling a “coup” by area residents who oppose the trail. The new caucus convened a wildlife task force to study the impact the proposed trail would have on a number of wildlife areas in the valley. The group will bring its findings to the Jan. 25 meeting.Tom McBrayer, the new chairman of the caucus, said he supports the trail along the highway right of way, but he said there are a number of public access and private property issues along the route.”Will this help the people of the valley?” he asked. McBrayer is concerned about impact on area wildlife and drainage, and said there is plenty of access to open space in the county. With little commercial activity in the Crystal River Valley and no reason to attract tourists, he asked, “Why create new impact when it’s not necessary?””The reality is, if this trail is done wrong, it is actually urban sprawl,” he said.McBrayer owns property near Red Wind Point and he opposes trail access that would compromise private property.”That public access should not come across private property,” he said.A county wildlife study in advance of the purchase of Red Wind Point showed bighorn sheep frequent Red Wind Point on the upper section, but said the animals stay in the high terrain.”They do not come down to the river,” Will said, and any access to open space would be only in the warmer months when grazing animals aren’t present.”They’re recommending the county should abandon their access to this property,” Will said, and that’s not fair. “Balancing recreation and habitat is key.”He looks forward to hearing the finding of the caucus’ wildlife task force, but he is concerned that the caucus has not produced yet and will vote without giving the public a chance to study the findings closely.County Commissioner Dorothea Farris said the caucus is becoming too focused on single issues. It is up to every caucus to make its own rules, she stressed (the Fryingpan’s caucus holds meetings only in summer, for instance), but she is concerned the Crystal River Caucus is going against the area’s master plan.”A lot of people’s concerns went into that [master plan],” she said. “And the fact that it is disregarded by the caucus is disturbing.”She called the basis of a study the new caucus board proposed unscientific and a duplication of studies the county already performed. But, if conducted properly, Farris added, the study would just supply more information.”You can’t hurt us with more data,” she said.”People know I have my own agenda. You’ll know what my agenda is, and vote the way I vote or not,” McBayer said. As the chair of the caucus, his job is to run the meeting and give everyone a chance to speak, he said. And that’s just what he’ll do Jan. 25 at the Church at Redstone.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is email@example.com.