Pitkin County trail purchase moves forward
June 14, 2012
ASPEN – The purchase of a trailhead parking area and a mile-long trail corridor along Prince Creek Road won initial approval from Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday, but the price of the trail troubled one commissioner.
The county Open Space and Trails program would acquire 14.6 acres from the Tybar Ranch for $1,275,000 if commissioners give final approval to the purchase. A public hearing and possible final action are scheduled June 27.
The property includes about 4.6 acres that could be used for trailhead parking. Currently, people who are seeking access to mountain-biking trails in the vicinity park on the road, a practice that area residents want to see end.
“We have people in the Prince Creek subdivision who are champing at the bit for some relief,” said Dale Will, open space and trails director.
The purchase price includes $500,000 for the trailhead parcel. The remainder of the price would go toward a mile-long easement of about 10 acres, which varies in width from 30 to 120 feet, allowing construction of a separate gravel trail for bikers and pedestrians in what is arguably the most dangerous stretch of the road, according to Will.
Both components of the purchase would facilitate mountain-biking access to the Crown, a popular recreation area, from outside Carbondale, and to bike trails on private property known as the Haynes parcel. The latter is currently the subject of a proposed land swap involving the Wexners, owners of the parcel, and the Bureau of Land Management.
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Regardless of whether the land trade goes forward, the trail and parking facility are a safety improvement, Will said.
Commissioner George Newman voiced support for the acquisition but questioned how the county will enforce parking regulations, making sure trail users park at the trailhead and not on the road.
Commissioner Rob Ittner sought more information about the cost of constructing the parking lot and trail, and the cost of long-term maintenance, but Commissioner Michael Owsley questioned the purchase price for the trail piece.
An appraisal will be part of the deal for the trailhead piece but not the trail easement, according to Will. An appraisal doesn’t take into account the value of a trail to the public, he said.
The $750,000 allocated to a mile of trail will set a price precedent that harms the program’s ability to acquire such easements in the future, Owsley predicted.
“At this price, we would be stymied on future trail acquisitions,” he said.
Commissioner Jack Hatfield suggested that Will offer some information on what other trail easements cost the county, for comparison purposes, when commissioners take up the purchase again on June 27.