Help for nordic budget? | AspenTimes.com

Help for nordic budget?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Pitkin County open space funds may be used to shore up the budget for grooming cross-country ski trails this winter.

The county?s Open Space and Trails Board made no promises, but agreed Thursday to consider a request for about $23,000 for nordic trail maintenance as it reviews its 2003 budget in the coming weeks.

For years, Aspen, Snowmass Village and the county have each contributed one-third of the cost to maintain a 70-kilometer nordic system that stretches from Aspen to Snowmass Village. Virtually all of the system is groomed to accommodate classic and skate-style skiing.

This year, the county has indicated it can?t put up its share ? $55,194 ? unless a proposed tax increase wins voter approval in November. The nordic expenditure typically comes from the county?s general fund.

Without any county funding, sections of the system located in the county will see a drastic reduction in grooming, said Jeff Woods, the city?s parks director. The Aspen Parks Department actually handles the trail maintenance, with funding from all three contributing entities.

?It?s, I think, a huge impact on the quality of the system,? Woods said. ?Our goal is to keep the system as intact as we can. At the same time, I don?t think it?s fair to Snowmass and Aspen to cut the quality there.?

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Since some of the nordic trails are set on county open space, funding from the Open Space and Trails Program to help maintain the system makes sense, noted Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Council members. The Open Space and Trails Program is funded with a separate, dedicated property tax.

The $23,000 would allow nordic trails to be groomed at North Star Nature Preserve, on the Moore Open Space and on the section of the Rio Grande Trail that is part of the county trail system.

?It?s a logical request for us to be considering,? agreed Open Space Board member Tom Cardamone.

The Owl Creek Trail, a groomed nordic trail between Buttermilk and Snowmass Village, is also located in unincorporated Pitkin County, but does not involve a county open space parcel. Woods said he hopes it can still be groomed perhaps once a week by what will be a reduced number of staffers assigned to the nordic system.

?Owl Creek is a premier trail. We would still maintain it on a limited basis,? he said.

If the board decides to budget the $23,000 toward nordic trail maintenance, it can make the contribution contingent upon the outcome of November?s property tax vote, advised Dale Will, Open Space Program director. If the ballot measure passes, the county can fund its full share of the nordic program through its general fund as usual, he said.