Martin takes the right path | AspenTimes.com

Martin takes the right path

The Garfield County Commissioners on Monday reversed an earlier vote and dedicated $50,000 toward a mile-long trail segment next to Highway 133. By reversing his earlier vote, Commissioner John Martin made the right decision for his constituents.It would be easy – but a mistake – to criticize Martin for not doing more. After all, the 1.1-mile segment in question will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 to build, according to estimates from the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program. Plans currently call for using $200,000 in grant money and a $50,000 private donation to supplement the money Garfield County approved Monday. That leaves the project $100,000 short. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, which is taking a lead role on constructing a trail from Carbondale through Redstone and on to the top of McClure Pass, had asked Garfield County also to commit $100,000 of in-kind services from the county’s road and bridge department to make up the difference. Martin wasn’t ready to join fellow Commissioner Trèsi Houpt in making that commitment. Nor were Martin and Commissioner Larry McCown willing to adopt Houpt’s motion to dedicate money from the county general fund in next year’s budget to build trails. It would be fair to say Martin and McCown are being too stubborn by refusing to pay for any trail development out of the general fund, especially in light of the fact that they spent more than $300,000 last year on improvements to county fairgrounds in Rifle. But at least Martin is willing to keep talking about trail development in Garfield County. He suggested the county develop a master plan for trails. It’s not a bad idea. Bringing various trail groups in the lower Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys together to discuss needs and set priorities makes sense. All three commissioners were also supportive – in varying degrees – of asking voters if they would support a dedicated tax for trail development and maintenance. Monday’s outcome wasn’t perfect, by any means. But it did loosen up some money for the project at hand and opened up discussion on the broader subject of trail funding. The community leaders from Glenwood Springs and Carbondale who passionately – and effectively – pressed the county for its support deserve some of the credit. So, too, does John Martin.