Rio Grande Trail eyed for paving in Woody Creek | AspenTimes.com

Rio Grande Trail eyed for paving in Woody Creek

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

WOODY CREEK – A 2.3-mile section of the Rio Grande Trail in the Woody Creek area is slated for paving this summer in order to give road bikers an option that lets them avoid sharing McLain Flats Road with the multitude of dump trucks accessing the Elam Construction gravel pit.

The trail segment between Pitkin Iron and the W/J Ranch area is part of a longer section of the trail that currently has a gravel surface. It is also an area where cyclists ride a narrow road with no shoulder, on a steep hill that sees heavy dump truck traffic.

“In that section, we feel the safety issue supersedes everything else,” said Dale Will, director of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program, which is proposing the project. “We’re really wanting to get that done next.”

The Rio Grande Trail, a popular 42-mile bicycle and pedestrian link between Aspen and Glenwood Springs, is almost completely paved. It remains gravel in a stretch between Stein Park outside of Aspen and Pitkin Iron, just below Woody Creek.

Bicyclists on skinny-tired road bikes typically opt to travel McLain Flats Road and Upper River Road to bypass the unpaved stretch of trail.

While paving the entire, remaining gravel stretch remains controversial and is currently not proposed, the piece slated for pavement this summer won’t eliminate a soft-surface option for equestrians, mountain bikers and others. Open Space and Trails, at the urging of the Woody Creek Caucus, has acquired a separate easement on which to maintain a parallel, soft-surface trail.

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Woody Creek Development, Holy Cross Energy and Elam Construction Inc. have all agreed to provide easements that will allow a separate, gravel trail on a bench where native vegetation remains undisturbed, according to Will.

“The wildflowers and vegetation up there are really something to see,” he said.

The additional paving, which has yet to receive county approval, means the Rio Grande would be paved from Glenwood Springs up to the trail’s crossing of McLain Flats Road, upvalley from Woody Creek. It is also already paved for two miles below Aspen.

The trail sees summertime use on various segments by as many as 650 people per day, according to Will.

janet@aspentimes.com