Support for Redstonetrail isn’t crystal clear
The first leg of a proposed trail between Carbondale and McClure Pass received a shaky endorsement Thursday night from residents of the Crystal River Valley.Members of the Crystal River Caucus voted 27-16 to conceptually support the construction of 4.2 miles of trail from the southern outskirts of Carbondale to Thompson Creek.Supporters said it would be a great amenity for the valley, and that it would increase safety for cyclists and pedestrians. But the trail proposal, which surfaced earlier this year, has faced criticism from landowners who believe it will have too great an impact on private land and have an adverse effect on wildlife habitat.The trail would be built on the east side of the Highway 133 right of way and end, for now, at land owned by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, according to Tom Newland, a consultant working on the feasibility of the path.Half of the first segment would be built in Pitkin County, with 1.6 miles in Garfield County and a half mile in Carbondale. Although Pitkin County hasn’t had a formal vote, officials are aware of the trail and have budgeted $600,000 for the project, according to Dale Will, executive director of the open space and trails program.The town of Carbondale has committed $125,000 and in-kind work from its public works department for the trail, according to John Hoffman, chair of the town’s trail committee. The trail will be an extension on the town bike path along Highway 133.Will said he was hopeful that Garfield County would tap sources to fund trail construction along its stretch. The governments are working on an agreement, he said.Will and Newland said they were unable to provide a cost estimate for the first stretch of trail or the entire project until engineering decisions are made.Once the first stretch is built to Thompson Creek, the trail would be extended to Avalanche Creek in the next phase, then between Avalanche and the town of Redstone and finally up to the summit of McClure Pass.The next three phases are entirely within Pitkin County so it won’t require cooperation between jurisdictions to fund it, Will noted.But it could face funding and philosophical difficulties. The trail is proposed to stray away from the Highway 133 alignment in pinch places where there isn’t room for it between the Crystal River, highway and embankments.Although the trail is proposed on an alignment that uses public property or easements donated by private landowners, some residents oppose a trail adjacent to their property. In addition, some residents have protested that a trail section through the Filoha Meadows property about five miles north of Redstone will adversely affect bighorn sheep and other wildlife. Caucus member Mike Ferguson said he would “have trouble” supporting the trail if it goes through Filoha Meadows.If those challenges are overcome, the trail could eventually be part of a network that stretches from Carbondale to Crested Butte. Will said trail work has already progressed out of Crested Butte toward Kebler Pass.With the work starting on the two sides, Will said, “It’s kind of like the Union Pacific,” which built the first transcontinental railroad.No timetable has been set for when work will begin on the first phase of the trail heading out of Carbondale.
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