Pitkin County moves forward with Crystal River open space purchase | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County moves forward with Crystal River open space purchase

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – The purchase of two acres of open space on and near the Crystal River south of Carbondale moved forward Wednesday over the objection of the Crystal Caucus, which asked Pitkin County commissioners to delay the action.

Commissioners voted unanimously on first reading to approve the purchase, for $275,000, with final action and a public hearing scheduled Oct. 13.

Dee Malone, representing the caucus, urged commissioners to hold off on the initial approval until the public can weigh in on how the property will be used. That was the unanimous recommendation of the caucus board, she said.

The county, Malone said, is “undermining and pre-empting the public process” if the property is to be used for extension of the Crystal Valley Trail. The location of the bike trail, completed from Carbondale to the BRB bridge this summer, is a sensitive issue for the caucus.

The county is not currently deciding on placement of the trail from the BRB bridge to Redstone, according to Dale Will, Open Space and Trails director.

“Frankly, that is years away,” he said.

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“I don’t see a trail process moving forward for years and years,” agreed Commissioner Jack Hatfield.

The two acres is being purchased to preserve kayak access on the Crystal River just north of the Avalanche Creek Road bridge, on the Highway 133 side of the river, and to secure a connection from the road to Forest Service land that encompasses the old Janeway townsite, Will said.

Rev. Jim Tarr has placed four acres under contract and offered to sell two of them to the county, Will said. Tarr plans to renovate an old home on the property.

The river access, popular with kayakers looking to run the Avalanche-to-BRB stretch of the river at high water, had been fenced off to the public, according to Will.

“I’ve seen again and again that river access points are taken for granted until one of them disappears,” he said. “Then they’re very difficult to get back.”

The open space would also accommodate an easier access than what’s currently available to the remaining remnants of Janeway, a one-time stage and rail stop, Will said.

The county isn’t deviating from its usual practice in purchasing open space first and then going through a process to plan its use, Will and the commissioners noted.

“In the real estate world, I don’t see how we could put that process in front of the acquisition opportunities when they come to us,” Will said.

“I think the normal public process will follow,” said Commissioner George Newman.

Commissioners also approved the purchase of two 40-acre parcels on Light Hill in the midvalley, adjacent to Bureau of Land Management property, that the Colorado Division of Wildlife has identified as critical winter range for both deer and elk, Will said.

The county is poised to buy the two contiguous parcels, each with a development right, for $895,000 total; Walter Schoellkopf is the seller. The land is off East Sopris Creek Road.

Final action and a public hearing on the Light Hill purchase is also scheduled Oct. 13.

janet@aspentimes.com