Officials question wildlife report
ASPEN A new wildlife report has raised more questions than answers about a proposed bike trail along the Crystal River south of Carbondale.In a joint meeting Tuesday in Aspen with the county Open Space and Trails Board, Pitkin County commissioners were stumped over the Crystal River caucus wildlife task force study. Commissioners expressed concern that the report is “unscientific.”Supporters of the trail say the report is part of a campaign by Crystal River Country Estates residents who don’t want the trail passing near their homes to connect with the county’s Red Wind Point open space.Opponents of the trail diverting to the open space say the area is sensitive habitat for bighorn sheep and the trail should stay near the road.Currently, the bike trail is approved as far as the BRB Crystal River Resort along the Highway 133 right of way, county officials said.”They just don’t want it in their back yard,” said former Crystal River Caucus chairman Chuck Downey.Though Downey acknowledged that some of the information about annual sheep and elk migrations is accurate, he said the report’s recommendations have nothing to do with wildlife.”It’s all Mr. McBrayer,” Downey said of the current caucus chairman. “For whatever reason, he doesn’t want the bike path going by his house.”Downey said Tom McBrayer and other caucus members are spreading false information about the county’s intentions, adding that caucus members won’t communicate with county officials.”The reality is it’s all rooted in historical misinformation,” Downey said. “They have pretty much chosen not to communicate with Pitkin County. And they continue to sow seeds of misinformation.”McBrayer said caucus members are more than happy to work with county officials and said the group follows strict parliamentary procedure, adding the vote at the May caucus approved informational sections of the report only, not any of the conclusions or recommendations in the report.”Everybody wants to violate the constitution if it doesn’t affect them,” McBrayer said. “Private property is sacred, as far as I’m concerned.”McBrayer said area residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bike trail in a recent survey, but stressed that they supported it along the highway right of way, not near or through private property. “There’s still support for a trail, but it comes down to, at what cost?” McBrayer asked.”The caucus is very interested in dialogue. I’m a member of the caucus. … You can read me like a book,” McBrayer said. “My job is to provide the public forum. I get one vote like anybody else.”Commissioners were divided.”We need to make a statement about what we think of the wildlife report,” said commissioner Jack Hatfield, calling it a “citizens report.” But commissioners Chairman Michael Owsley asked for clear and careful dialogue with Crystal River Valley residents.”I need to believe that the trail-builders assess everyone’s concerns,” Owsley said.Owsley called for cooperation instead of “NIMBY” or “pro-trail” and “anti-trail” name-calling.The Open Space and Trails Board will hold an open meeting about the Crystal River Valley trail issue July 11 in Carbondale.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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