Verena Mallory lawsuit dismissed | AspenTimes.com

Verena Mallory lawsuit dismissed

The controversy over a trail through Verena Mallory Park on Smuggler Mountain is the subject of an ongoing court battle. The park's overlook and picnic table can be used regardless of the outcome, according to Aspen Valley Land Trust.

The Verena Mallory Trail is officially open for business.

A District Court judge dismissed a 3-year-old lawsuit last week that threatened to close the short, Hunter Creek Valley single-track after an easement transferring the trail to the city of Aspen and Pitkin County was officially recorded earlier this month, according to court documents.

Suzanne Stephens, executive director of the Aspen Valley Land Trust, signed the trail easement Aug. 2, granting it to the city and county for non-motorized recreation, according to the easement, which was recorded Aug. 7 at the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder's Office.

Stephens was not available for comment Monday.

However, Chris Bryan, an Aspen attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Friends of Verena Mallory Trail Association, said the agreement will keep the trail open in perpetuity.

District Judge Anne Norrdin signed the order dismissing the case Thursday, according to court records.

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The Aspen City Council and the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners approved agreements taking on ownership of the trail in June. Both governments will share maintenance costs of the trail.

The Verena Mallory Trail offers a short alternative to a steep, rocky road leading to and from the Hunter Creek Valley. It was initially donated by Fritz Benedict in 1993 to the Aspen Valley Land Trust, then known as the Park Trust.

The hand-wringing over the trail began in 2014 when city officials began looking at potential trail connections along the flanks of Smuggler Mountain. In connection with that effort, AVLT officials discovered discrepancies in the deed for the Verena Mallory parcel and found it didn't permit the existence of a trail.

AVLT planned to close the trail and restore the area before Friends of Verena Mallory sued to keep the trail open.

In June, Stephens released a statement saying AVLT had been obligated to uphold the wording of the deed. However, because the trail had been "in the public domain for so long," the agreement with the city and county was the best solution, she said at the time.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

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