Pitkin County commissioners approve plan for Rio Grande Trail through Woody Creek | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County commissioners approve plan for Rio Grande Trail through Woody Creek

Bob Ward
The Aspen Times

After nearly three years of discussion, debate and planning, Pitkin County is nearly ready to build a dual-surface, 1,300-foot section of the Rio Grande Trail in Woody Creek.

Pitkin County commissioners signed off Tuesday on a $588,237 budget increase to pay for the work. This clears the way for construction to begin in late summer or early fall. The overall cost of the trail and 14-foot bridge is estimated at $670,838.

Many Woody Creek residents don’t support the bridge, but commissioners approved the project Tuesday because their hands essentially were tied. In April 2011, commissioners accepted $281,486 in federal grant money through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. That grant money, which is administered through the Colorado Department of Transportation, came with many strings attached and ended up increasing the size of the bridge. It also delayed the project start date.

“Things have been moving at the speed of CDOT,” said Lindsey Utter, recreation planner for the Open Space and Trails program.

Things have been moving at the speed of CDOT

Gary Tennenbaum, stewardship and trails manager of the Open Space and Trails program, said the delays and complications were frustrating and unanticipated. In the future, he said, Open Space officials will think twice before using Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds to supplement a project.

“It’s a lesson learned for us,” Tennenbaum said.

Two commissioners, Michael Owsley and Steve Child, both said they’d spoken with Woody Creekers upset about the size and appearance of the new bridge, which will cross Woody Creek just north of the Woody Creek Tavern. In the end, however, the entire board supported the budget increase based on its earlier commitment to the project and a sense that the time to second-guess has passed.

“In the final analysis, the Woody Creek Caucus said yes to the design,” Owsley said. “It was a lukewarm yes, but it was a yes.”

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