Pitco wrestles with funding open space, trail maintenance | AspenTimes.com

Pitco wrestles with funding open space, trail maintenance

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County continues to struggle with the question of who will pay for maintenance of land and trails now meagerly supported by the county’s general fund.

This question was on the agenda when the Open Space and Trails Board met with county commissioners Thursday. The commissioners contend that maintenance on those properties should be done with funds from the Open Space program’s tax revenue. But Open Space board members argue their program’s charter forbids using the money for properties not fully transferred to the ownership of the program, and therefore not protected from conversion to other uses.

One property that fueled the discussion is Owl Creek Trail, a popular asset, but one that will be subject to an expensive realignment sometime in the future. The county’s public works department estimates the work will cost $1.07 million, and some trail property would have to be exchanged for adjacent land.

The Open Space and Trails program’s charter specifies that if Open Space property is to be exchanged or otherwise disposed of, the move must be approved by a vote of the electorate. That process would be cumbersome and expensive, so most of those involved believe it’s important that the work be done before the trail is made a full property of the Open Space program. But if it’s not a property protected within the program, it is, some fear, in danger of being converted to another use, as were Rubey Park and part of the Marolt open space.

Open Space and Trails Board Chairman Bill Fales, arguing that money shouldn’t be spent on properties not fully transferred to the program, said, “It’s essential for the confidence of the public that if we spend a million dollars on a property, we can’t go out and convert it.”

But Commissioner Leslie Lamont disagreed. Lamont said her understanding is that the conversion aspect only applies to properties purchased outright by the Open Space program. She argued that because the Open Space program’s tax funding is going before the voters for renewal, money must be spent so taxpayers can see the return on their investment.

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