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Woody Creek protests trail

Jeremy Heiman

Members of the Woody Creek community turned out to protest as the Pitkin County Commissioners approved the extension of a paved trail through their neighborhood Wednesday.

A segment of the trail on the former Rio Grande Railroad right of way, parallel to Lower River Road, has recently been paved for the safety of road cyclists. Lower River Road, heavily used by cyclists, is to be used as a detour for Highway 82 traffic starting this fall.

Members of the county’s Open Space and Trails board decided this summer they wanted to extend the pavement another one and a half miles from Gerbaz Way to the Pitkin Iron affordable housing project. Without the extension, cyclists would be forced to contend with detour traffic on Gerbaz Way between Upper River Road and the paved trail, which now begins near the old railroad cars off Gerbaz Way.

The request was killed by a 2-2 deadlock in an earlier meeting but was brought back to the board Wednesday at the request of Commissioner Dorothea Farris, who missed that vote. It passed 3-2.

Woody Creek resident Jess Graber noted that paving the trail is a violation of the Woody Creek Master Plan and is inappropriate to the style of the neighborhood. Graber suggested the county treat the trail surface with magnesium chloride, which is used to keep dust down on unpaved county roads. Mag chloride also gives dirt roads a smooth surface.

Ann Owsley, also of Woody Creek, berated Open Space director Dale Will for not knowing how many bicyclists could be expected to use the trail.

“If this gentleman has no numbers of how many bicyclists would be served, how can you say this is a safety issue?” she asked.

Owsley argued that a large number of pedestrian trail users and families would be inconvenienced by speeding road cyclists. She ridiculed the idea that a significant number of cyclists would use the trail to commute to Aspen.

“How many people have to get hit before we decide it’s unsafe?” countered Commissioner Mick Ireland. Ireland said road cyclists would continue to use Lower River Road if the trail wasn’t paved to avoid flat tires.

“To me, this is a pure safety issue,” agreed Commissioner Leslie Lamont. She acknowledged Graber’s mag chloride suggestion but observed that the environmental impacts of large-scale use of the chemical are not known. She also disputed Owsley’s contention that few would commute on the trail.

“What’s wrong with trying to create a viable alternative to people using their cars?” Lamont asked Owsley.


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