Glenwood OKs trail extension
GLENWOOD SPRINGS After a contentious debate attended by nearly 100 people, Glenwood Springs City Council cleared the path Thursday night for eventual construction of a city trail to the southern part of town.Council voted 4-2 to proceed with building a concrete trail between Hager Lane and the Roaring Fork River near the Sunlight Bridge, and continuing a little more than a mile south. They also authorized city staff to use condemnation if needed to acquire property for the trail, which has been planned since the early 1990s.”We’ve worked very, very hard for many, many years and now we’ve come to the point where a critical piece of this trail system is not built and needs to be built,” Mayor Bruce Christensen said.Council members Dave Merritt and Larry Beckwith opposed council’s decision, and particularly the idea of using condemnation.”Glenwood Springs is going to become the poster child for use of condemnation for trails. I’d hate to see that happen,” Merritt said.Councilman Chris McGovern also has opposed the planned trail behind Hager Lane but abstained from participating in the decision because she owns rental property there.More than 40 people spoke to council about the issue. During some two hours of public comment, about 15 opposed the trail plan, with many of the others favoring it and several offering mixed opinions or suggesting compromises.City community development director Andrew McGregor said the city has easements in place for 85 percent of the trail stretch in question. Christensen said easements have yet to be acquired for four properties, three of them in the city.Attorney Chris Coyle, who represents 16 residents on Hager Lane, said the city’s pedestrian easements along Hager Lane don’t allow for uses such as biking and skateboarding. But Christensen said the city’s intent to use the easement for a trail that would accommodate bikes as well as pedestrians has been clear since planning began.Hager Lane resident Tom Mcintosh objected to the idea of condemnation as a means of completing the city trail system.”I believe there are other alternatives, good alternatives, to get the same thing accomplished,” he said.Fellow Hager Lane resident Doug Straw and West Glenwood resident Marilee Rippy both suggested a compromise solution that would involve improving the primitive pedestrian path now running behind Hager Lane, but with something such as fine gravel rather than concrete. Straw said that approach could allow for slower bike travel.”If an enhanced, soft trail would accomplish most of what a hard concrete trail would, why overdevelop this precious natural resource?” Straw said.City River Commission member Joe Mollica said one reason for a concrete trail is to make it accessible to people in wheelchairs.Hager Lane resident Cheryl Guay said the city has no legal right to pave a trail behind her property.”The serenity I have enjoyed would be totally taken away,” she added.Some of her neighbors said a trail would harm wildlife habitat and the pristine condition of the riverbank. But Greg Albrecht, a River Commission member, countered, “Environmentally this is good long-term decision to facilitate nonmotorized traffic.”Bob Cutter, who also lives along the planned bike route, said council needed the courage to support the trail as it has been planned, just as it has pushed other controversial but ultimately successful projects in town.Christensen said condemnation would only be used as a last resort in pursuing the trail.”I see it as (providing) an ability to start negotiations in a serious way with people who have been unwilling to talk to us,” he said.
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