Rail and trail not shortsighted
In what is typically a thoughtful, informed, and informative newspaper, The Aspen Times’ July 25 editorial about trail paving in the valley’s rail right-of-way stands out as an unfortunate aberration. You describe a fight that isn’t there, try to pit two excellent and complementary community projects against each other, and top it off by irrationally describing the potential for world-class transit services here as a “nightmare.” The old D&RGW right-of-way is now owned collectively by the citizens of the Roaring Fork Valley, whose enlightened government representatives joined in purchasing it specifically to preserve its continuity as a transit corridor. From its beginning, the corridor vision has included rail and trail because they both are smart projects. More important, both are included because the corridor is wide enough to accommodate both. That’s right, both, not one or the other. Sixty to 100 feet wide, the corridor has room for protecting the historic rail bed and for building a well designed trail. Building the trail atop the rail bed in selected segments, let alone along the entire corridor is a foolish shortcut. More significantly, it is unnecessary. Your editorial described a “growing battle” between trail enthusiasts and those who believe in a valleywide rail system. It just isn’t true. We are the same people. We know that, with creativity and honest cooperation, both projects will be successful. The RFTA board’s recent decision to delay construction of one small segment of trail is not “shortsighted,” as you suggest, nor was it a response to any trail opposition. The board decided that it would be smart to have the funding for that segment in hand before beginning construction. That is just common sense. The board now has time to thoughtfully deliberate on policies that will promote quality trails while preserving the corridor for both rail and trail. Unlike the RFTA board, you seem willing to spend public money when it isn’t there and to waste it when it is. I believe that rail service will return to the valley much sooner than you predict, but whatever the rail time frame turns out to be, your suggestion that we will just rebuild a poorly planned trail later is the shortsighted one. To spend money now on a trail, and then spend more money on the same trail later is profligate and, again, unnecessary. Money is money, always precious and typically in short supply, Public money, contributed by all of us, is especially precious. Let’s spend it once and spend it right. If we take a breath and plan the trail in the larger and longer context, the trail itself will be better in design, will serve us longer and will be built with less of our money. A small segment of trail has been delayed for only a few months. Let’s put that time to good use on careful, quality planning and not on picking fights that aren’t there. Steve Smith Glenwood Springs
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