No excuses for not funding trail in Crystal Valley
November 10, 2005
Garfield County Commissioners John Martin and Larry McCown had a chance this week to save county taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction of a key segment of a regional trail. They declined. In doing so, Martin and McCown mismanaged the county’s finances and passed up a unique opportunity to cooperate with Pitkin County. And, most importantly, they betrayed their constituents by putting philosophical objections over the health and safety of cyclists and pedestrians.Voting 2-1 over the objections of Commissioner Trési Houpt, Martin and McCown passed up Pitkin County’s offer to subsidize more than half the cost of a one-mile stretch of trail between Carbondale and Redstone. Pitkin County was willing to donate a pedestrian/bicycle bridge and up to $200,000 in cash toward the Garfield County portion of the trail. Pitkin County and Carbondale also offered to provide the money and labor needed to maintain the trail once it is built.The mile-long segment would have cost Garfield County $50,000 in cash and about $100,000 in donated labor and materials to help build the trail.There really is no excuse for this decision. According to the county manager, Garfield County has millions in reserve, which has been built up with taxes collected from energy companies drilling for natural gas in the county. There’s plenty of money.Martin and McCown also expressed concern that the trail is going to be built in the Highway 133 right of way, which the Colorado Department of Transportation owns. They didn’t like the idea of investing in a trail without having county ownership of the ground underneath. But CDOT almost never gives up its rights of way, opting instead to give local governments licenses to build trails. It’s not an ideal arrangement, but one we could live with.McCown also said he wasn’t sure county government should be in the business of paying for recreation. Martin added that “we have to find another source of funding for trails.” Those “philosophical” stances, however, didn’t stop McCown and Martin from using county dollars recently to improve a little-used road in rural Garfield County simply to facilitate backcountry access for snowmobile groups.Martin and McCown’s stubborn refusal means that a 74-mile trail system under construction between Crested Butte and Carbondale will remain unfinished. It also means fewer children and families will have the opportunity to ride or walk safely up the Crystal River Valley between Carbondale and Redstone.It’s hard to imagine Martin and McCown changing their minds, but that should not stop people – cyclists, parents, fiscal conservatives, teachers and children – from trying. The commissioners’ office number is 945-5004. John Martin’s home number is 945-7056, and Larry McCown’s is 625-4229. Give them a call and let them know what you think.