Short trail project bodes well for valleywide route |

Short trail project bodes well for valleywide route

Proponents of a valleywide trail have renewed hope of someday seeing a route completed to Glenwood Springs thanks to a short but sweet project that started in Emma this week.A contractor for the Roaring Fork Transit Authority started work Monday on a 1.25-mile stretch of the trail from Emma to Hooks Lane near the intersection with Willits Lane. The new section should be completed in October, according to Mike Hermes, RFTA’s director of properties and trails.”As soon as the asphalt cools we’ll open it up,” he said.While the trail segment is short, it is symbolically significant. It is only the second project along the old Rio Grande Railroad route to be undertaken outside of Pitkin County. Carbondale completed a one-mile stretch of trail on the railroad right of way last year.”It’s the beginning of finishing the trail,” said Jacque Whitsitt, chairwoman of the MidValley Trails Committee, a group of volunteers from Eagle County that works on trail issues.In the big picture, about 20 miles of trail have been completed from Aspen to the county line in Emma, with the last work taking place in 2003. Progress has been slower on the roughly 20 miles from Emma to Glenwood Springs so the start of this project is lifting spirits.”This is RFTA’s first major section of trail,” said Hermes.The agency, which operates the valley bus system, is chipping in $148,000 for the project. The MidValley Trails Committee added $50,000 from revenues raised in Eagle County and it also scored a $122,000 grant from the state trails program, Hermes said.Aspen Earthmoving won a contract to build a 10-foot-wide paved trail with a 3-foot gravel shoulder. The trail won’t follow the raised rail bed. It will have twists and turns, dips and rises on a route within the old railroad right of way, which is now owned by RFTA.”It’s got some character to it. It’s not just a zip trail,” said Hermes.It will be more like the stretch between Basalt and Old Snowmass rather than the straight, flat gravel stretch from Emma to the pedestrian overpass at Highway 82.In practical terms, the trail extension will allow a cyclist to go from Aspen to Hooks Bridge without traveling on any roads.Although work has started, the official groundbreaking will be held Thursday between 10:30 and 10:45 a.m., depending on when the RFTA board of directors completes a special meeting. The groundbreaking will take place where the railroad tracks cross Hooks Lane.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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