Aspen Times editorial: Crystal Valley caucus, residents deserve prime seat at table during trail talk | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times editorial: Crystal Valley caucus, residents deserve prime seat at table during trail talk

The Aspen Times Editorial Board

The proposal for a pedestrian trail in the Crystal River Valley has created a considerable ruckus — pitting neighbors against one another, spurring outrage among some conservationists and prompting trail enthusiasts to accuse valley residents of being NIMBYs.

As the dust settles on the first round of the decision-making process, we want to take stock of where we believe things stand and offer a suggestion for moving forward.

We can sympathize with Crystal River Valley residents who feel like life as they know it is slipping away in their peaceful valley. Marble has become a popular daytime destination in both summer and winter. Some Redstone merchants reported booming business last summer. Some people feel that if the trend continues, the hustle and bustle they fled elsewhere will find them again. They fear that a paved trail patterned after the popular Rio Grande and Glenwood Canyon routes will attract hordes of bikers and will accelerate the cycle of growth in the valley.

While the desire to avoid that outcome is understandable, it doesn't appear Pitkin County intends to fuel that cycle of growth, at least not any time soon.

The county commissioners voted 5-0 on Nov. 7 to approve a first reading of the trail plan. Their decision advances the stretch of trail from Redstone to the summit of McClure Pass to the next round of review with the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Department of Highways. It doesn't advance the most controversial stretch, from the BRB Campground 6 miles south of Carbondale to Redstone.

We don't believe the Redstone to McClure Pass stretch, if approved, will trigger considerable interest among cyclists. First, it's going to be a soft-surface route, which will turn off some potential users. Second, it will be a formidable climb, which will eliminate even more would-be riders.

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Pitkin County has vowed to undertake more study and public outreach to determine whether to build the stretch from BRB to Redstone, a path that interacts with numerous private properties. Concerns among conservationists about effects on wildlife from a potential trail on the east side of the Crystal River coupled with private property owners' misgivings has slowed the review and already proved beneficial to the public. The county has arranged to undertake several habitat improvement projects in the river corridor. Those projects wouldn't have come to light or fruition without looking into the possibility of a trail.

The county commissioners and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board of directors made it clear Nov. 7 that a trail between BRB and Redstone won't be rammed down the valley's throat. We commend the county officials for that stance and propose they commit to giving valley residents an enhanced seat at the table for future deliberations. To make further review even more credible, the county should establish an advisory committee comprised evenly between Crystal Valley residents who belong to the Crystal Caucus and valley residents who don't participate in that group. That would guarantee fair representation of valley interests moving forward.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of the publisher, editor and members of the Times' staff.

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