Rio Grande Trail to Emma to debut in May |

Rio Grande Trail to Emma to debut in May

Bicyclists and pedestrians will finally get the chance to travel between Aspen and Emma without entering a road in early May.

The final piece of the 20-mile trail along the old Rio Grande Railroad right of way is expected to fall into place on May 3, when a pedestrian bridge is erected across Highway 82, according to project manager Temple Glassier.

The $650,000 bridge will be located at Wingo Junction, between Holland Hills and Lazy Glen. It’s being built by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trail program.

“It’s going to be a huge addition,” said Basalt resident Jim Paussa, an avid cyclist and member of the Midvalley Trails Committee. “It’s going to be an easy and safe way to get over Highway 82.”

Every time a section has been added to the trail, users of all types have flocked to it, Paussa noted.

The Midvalley Trails Committee is exploring ways to make an addition of more than two miles between the old Emma school and the Hooks bridge on the Roaring Fork River just off Willits Lane.

Trails enthusiasts hope that someday the trail will be extended between Hooks Bridge and Carbondale, and finally between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs along the railroad right of way.

The pedestrian bridge at Wingo was a critical piece in the trail, Paussa noted. It’s also significant that the county was able to work with the Colorado Department of Transportation for a permit.

“CDOT just doesn’t let people throw up bridges around their highways,” he said.

The review didn’t happen overnight. Pitkin County applied for a permit for the bridge on Sept. 23, 2001. The county government, which is notorious among landowners and developers for its painstakingly long reviews, finally received permission to proceed with the bridge last month.

The steel bridge will be 330 feet long, 20 feet wide and 22 feet tall, Glassier said. It will be similar to the Maroon Creek pedestrian bridge outside of Aspen except it will be over, rather than alongside, Highway 82.

The precast bridge will be assembled along the south side of the highway at the site starting next week. It will be hauled to the site in five sections, Glassier said.

Edward Kraemer and Sons of Denver won the contract for the bridge work. A crew started work last week on the bridge approaches and abutments. The company will use cranes sometime in April to erect the bridge.

Trails enthusiasts anticipate that the completion of the bridge will make the Roaring Fork Valley trail nearly as popular as the Glenwood Canyon trail between Glenwood Springs and Dotsero.

The railroad right of way has been used as a trail for at least a couple of decades between Aspen and Woody Creek. A popular stretch between Old Snowmass and Basalt was added almost 10 years ago. In recent years, the open space and trails program has added trail segments between Woody Creek and Old Snowmass, and between Emma and Basalt High School.

Last year a historic railroad trestle across the Roaring Fork River at Wingo Junction was refurbished and made pedestrian-friendly. A trail from the bridge will hook into the Basalt-Old Snowmass stretch. On the south side of the highway, the trail will go through the Roaring Fork Golf Club and Cerise Ranch, and past the high school and the Grange Ranch before it ends by the old Emma school.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is]

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