Red Hill work is pushed back
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Visitors to Red Hill and the popular Mushroom Rock landmark will have to endure congestion for several more months.
And when construction on the new parking lots and roadwork begins next spring, the trail will be closed for six weeks.
Garfield County and the town of Carbondale have decided to push construction on a new road and more parking lots to spring 2020, which means closing the trail for six weeks in one of its busiest seasons.
“Spring is a big user time,” Davis Farrar, president of the Red Hill Council. “That’s one of our peaks — we have a spring peak and a fall peak,” Farrar said.
In the spring, Red Hill is one of the first local trails to dry out and gets heavy use from trail runners, hikers and mountain bikers.
Closing for six weeks is painful, but it isn’t that long in the scheme of things, according to Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, for major improvements to the system.
The project includes straightening County Road 107 so it intersects Highway 82 at a right angle, and construction of two new parking lots.
Delays in obtaining permits and rights of way from the state and the inconvenience from the repaving project on Highway 82 forced the town to postpone the start of the project, Carbondale town manager Jay Harrington said.
“It’s not a kind of job where we could do three weeks, then stop for the winter without significant inefficiencies,” Harrington said.
The project received early clearances in the spring, but then the process started to get bogged down.
The town began submitting permits earlier in the year, after raising money to fund the road improvements.
Given the extent of the construction, there isn’t a safe way to maintain access to the trailhead, Harrington said. The project will maintain access for residents who live up County Road 107, but plans haven’t been finalized, Harrington said.
Harrington said the town plans to conduct several public meetings this winter to inform people about the construction plans.
Recreational organizations that work with Red Hill are committed to helping the town get the word out about the closure as the project approaches.
Red Hill has around 65,000 visits a year, Farrar said, and the trail system takes a big load off of other trails around Carbondale.
Pritchard said he would like to see a way to keep the trailhead open for cyclists and hikers, but that would require having visitors park in town and walk farther to the trailhead.
“I wonder if we could coordinate some public access, whether it’s after construction hours or otherwise,” Pritchard said. “But there isn’t a plan for that now.”
What everyone agrees on is the need for the project.
“The configuration that exists now is horrible,” Farrar said. “The improvements are needed to make a better and stronger intersection, but it’s a pretty sizable project.”
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Those opting for the spring, like Aspen and Basalt, will begin football practice Feb. 25 and start playing games March 11.