Glenwood goes ahead with contested trail
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Property owners negotiating with the city over easements for the Atkinson Canal Trail may have until September to reach an agreement or face condemnation.
“At this point in time, at a staff level, we do not feel we have reached an impasse in the negotiations that are under way,” said City Manager Jeff Hecksel.
The City Council voted to 6-1 Thursday to proceed with the southernmost phase of the trail, from near the Mountain Market at Threemile Creek along the west side of the Roaring Fork River to the Cardiff Bridge. The trail would be built for now as a “soft trail” with road base at a cost of roughly $800,000. Ultimately, the trail would be paved an extended to the Sunlight Bridge at 27th Street, at a total cost of about $4.4 million.
Councilman Dave Merritt cast the lone vote against proceeding, noting the cost is high and rising. Plus, he saidk, the Rio Grande Trail was recently extended into Glenwood and, although the Atkinson Canal Trail would provide a good connection, it would not help access for elementary school students because it would be covered by snow for much of the school year.
Trail supporters have said the City Council has no legal authority to deviate from the trail’s location because voters approved public funding for the trail as part of the city’s river corridor plan. Critics contend a concrete bike trail would harm wildlife habitat, invade their privacy and lead to problems like littering and vagrancy. They maintain that easements behind homes on Hager Lane do not allow for a bike corridor.
Citizen Cheryl Guay said that, because the cost has risen since voters approved the trail plan, the matter should go back to citizens for another vote.
“This is not a feasible situation,” she said. “We’re talking $4 million-plus for one mile of a bike trail.”
Mark Smith argued condemnation should only be used in dire circumstances.
“I think the city has the hammer, but I think the wise person uses the hammer only because they have to, not because they have it,” he said.
He believes most people are in favor of the trail, just not paving it with concrete. He and others asked the city to consider keeping it a “soft trail.”
According to the council’s decision, if remaining easements can’t be obtained through negotiation within three months after a notice to proceed with construction is issued to a contractor, the city will use its power of eminent domain ” condemnation, in other words.
Hecksel said the notice to proceed would probably be issued in June, meaning negotiations can continue through September.
“We’re confident that we can reach agreement,” he said.
While new restaurants enter the Aspen scene, there are several spaces that will remain empty this winter. Meanwhile, the retail market remains extremely hot.