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Trail to be built on old rail bed

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County received the go-ahead Wednesday to start construction of a bike and pedestrian trail on its piece of the valley rail corridor from the coalition that owns the right of way.

The Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority approved the Pitkin County Open Space and Trail board’s plan for nine miles of trail in the county, extending from Emma to Woody Creek. Open Space Board members and staff hope that work can start on construction of the trail this spring.

Bill Fales, chairman of the Open Space and Trails board of trustees, said construction will begin as soon as possible.

“We’re putting it out to bid immediately,” Fales said. “We’re ready to go.” The project has to be approved by the county’s community development department but that will not delay trail construction, Fales said.

The first section to be completed will be from Old Snowmass to Gerbazdale. This will provide an alternate route for cyclists while Lower River Road is used as a construction detour during the four-laning of Highway 82 through Snowmass Canyon. It will link the existing Basalt-Old Snowmass Trail with the Rio Grande Trail.

The Snowmass-to-Gerbazdale section will be paved with asphalt from the start, Fales said, while other sections of the trail will be surfaced in a road-base material of fine, crushed rock mixed with clay.

“We want to make it as safe and attractive an alternative for bicyclists as possible,” Fales said, in order to keep riders off Lower River Road.

Of the remaining sections, the next to be completed will extend from Emma to Basalt High School, south of Basalt. A stretch from Gerbazdale to Woody Creek will be next, followed by a final section connecting Basalt High School to Wingo Junction.

“We’re just really excited to get the public out there on this $8.5 million investment they made,” Fales said, referring to the purchase of the rail corridor. The Open Space program put up $500,000 toward the purchase of the rail right of way. Open Space and Trails received a 20-foot-wide trail right of way within the 100-foot rail corridor in exchange.

What it will cost to construct the trail is not known, Fales said. An estimate of $3.4 million has been floated for building what has become known as “the ultimate trail” through the county, a 10-foot concrete bike path with a four-foot gravel path for runners and hikers next to it, but a more modest trail is envisioned at first.


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