Trail travail for Castle Creek
Residents of the Castle Creek Road area put up a fuss at an informational meeting Thursday about a planned $1.9 million trail designed to protect Aspen Music Festival and School students.The shouts and interruptions drowned out Aspen and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails representatives and Kiewit construction officials who tried to present the construction plan.With Kiewit Construction crews set to begin work Monday, some area residents said this was the first they heard of the project. Many decried everything from the timetable, likely traffic delays during construction and the lack of transparency in the planning process.The planned 4-foot-wide paved trail is a joint project of the city of Aspen and Pitkin County. Open space officials said the trail would sit behind a guardrail and be supported by a number of retaining walls running along less than a mile of Castle Creek Road. Kiewit officials said construction of the project would mean Castle Creek Road would become a single lane with an alternating signal from July 1 until mid-October.Most residents were adamant about putting a stop to the project.”What about the people who live here? Did you talk to us?” asked Castle Creek Road resident Jay Sandrich.Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, said the trail has been in the works for a long time and would protect the safety of the many music students who walk from the bus stops or housing to the music school campus.Tennenbaum said the planned trail sprang from negotiations with the music school for a discounted purchase of land the school owns on Smuggler Mountain. But Tennenbaum stressed that the trail is a way to protect the safety and convenience of music students commuting, as well as for the benefit of area hikers and cyclists.There is an ore cart trail dating back to Aspen’s mining era in the hills above the road, but while it is an attractive trail for recreational uses, it wouldn’t make sense for students who would have to carry heavy instruments up a steep hill, Tennenbaum said.Others objected that county officials would be cutting down as many as 1,000 trees to make way for the trail.Pitkin County Commissioner Michael Owsley, who was in attendance, repeatedly implored the residents to allow Tennenbaum to complete his presentation, but the questions and interruptions built to a crescendo.”You feel this has been foisted on you, and you have to express that to your commissioners,” Owsley said, suggesting that the group write a letter to the county and re-invigorate the Castle Creek Caucus, a group that has been inactive for two years.”This is the only collective input we have for this project, and it starts in five days,” said Castle Creek resident Bob Rafelson. “Forget about legal, what about courtesy?”Jenny Elliot, director of finance at the Aspen Music School, said that while school administrators support the trail, she wished there had been a community forum long before Thursday.”I expected people to vent,” Tennenbaum said after Thursday’s tense meeting. “We know of many people who support this,” Tennenbaum said. “I expected people to vent.”Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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