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East end trail could get longer

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Board is looking carefully at an innovative bridge design to extend its popular East Aspen Trail.

Construction of the bridge, intended to span about 450 feet of wetlands, would not require any disruption of the wetlands except where the actual pilings stand. The Open Space Program is working on a plan to extend the gravel trail about 1.5 miles past its present terminus. The trail follows Highway 82 east of town; the plan would extend it to Difficult Campground.

Four alternative designs were presented to the Open Space Board Thursday by engineer Jerry Gamba of Glenwood Springs. Two of them closely follow the highway alignment, while two cross the wetlands toward the Wildwood School by means of a bridge and follow the Wildwood access road back toward Highway 82.

Alternative I would employ a metal bridge similar to the foot bridge that spans the Crystal River in Redstone. The estimated cost, including the connecting trail construction, would be $413,770.

Alternative II, along the road, would have a shorter bridge section, with about 500 feet of trail built on fill in the wetland next to the road. The estimated cost of that project is $348,925.

The third alternative, also along the highway, involves a 750-foot metal bridge next to the road, eliminating any fill in the wetland. The cost of alternative III is $717,830.

The design recommended by Gamba, and the one which generally met with acceptance from the board, follows the alignment away from the road. It involves a bridge constructed of treated wood, to be built by a North Carolina firm using equipment especially designed for the purpose.

Construction would not require a crane or other equipment in the wetlands, because each pair of pilings would be put in place by machinery resting on that part of the bridge already built.

Gamba told the board this design is not only the least disruptive to the wetlands, it is also the cheapest, at $180,320. A bridge across the wetlands would need to be elevated to soften its impact on plant life by eliminating a constant shadow.

Building along the highway is more expensive, Gamba explained, because trail users must be protected from traffic by a guard rail or similar structure.

Temple Glassier, project manager on the trail construction, said though Open Space money is now available, construction on the trail probably can’t start until next summer, because of the eight-month public process required by the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the property. Glassier said the trail extension will have great value in educating the public on wetland plants and wildlife.

“It really could be a great community asset,” she said.


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