Pitco anxious to get going on rail line trail | AspenTimes.com

Pitco anxious to get going on rail line trail

Jeremy Heiman

The way may be clear by this summer to build a trail on Pitkin County’s section of the valleywide rail corridor.

Or, bureaucratic obstacles may block the project.

Members of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Board expressed excitement Thursday at the prospect of starting construction of a trail on the upper part of the rail corridor. If the rail route chosen in the Corridor Investment Study, due out in June, crosses the Roaring Fork River at Gerbazdale as anticipated, the existing rail route through the Woody Creek area will be freed up for the construction of a trail.

Open Space Board Chairman Bill Fales, speculating that the rails from the stretch beyond Gerbazdale might be sold for salvage, said, “We could do it at a profit, and have an incredible trail almost immediately.” The steel rails from the sections of the corridor not used by a transit system may be worth as much as $750,000.

But Tom Newland, executive director of the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority, told the board the trail construction probably can’t happen this summer. He explained later that his experience with public sector construction tells him the permits and approvals would not be completed in time for work to begin this year.

“I think the nuts and bolts of it will prevent them from getting anything into the ground,” Newland said. The county’s planning office is backlogged, and construction projects must go before the Planning and Zoning Commission and be approved by the county commissioners before permits can be issued.

However, design work on the trail is progressing. A series of maps illustrating the proposed location of the trail from Glenwood Springs to Woody Creek have been prepared by planner John Paliga of Land Design, a Denver consulting firm hired by RFRHA.

Newland told the board he would talk with Paliga about the placement of a transitional trail that could be built in Pitkin County before final transit decisions are made. A 20-foot right of way has been reserved for a trail throughout the length of the corridor, but has not been assigned to a fixed position within the 100-foot-wide right of way. Newland said he will make arrangements for Paliga to present the plans to the board at its next meeting.

According to Newland, producing a final design for the trail will be an interactive process between Paliga and the board. “We’ll bring in the design and then they may want to adjust it,” he said.

Despite the probable bureaucratic delays, the board remained enthusiastic about the possibility of getting started on the trail. “There’s nothing we could do that would endear us to the public as much as to get that trail built,” Fales said.

When the trail is built throughout the valley, it will link Glenwood Springs to Aspen, via the existing Rio Grande Trail between Aspen and Woody Creek.

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