George Newman: Carbondale-to-Crested Butte Trail a work in progress |

George Newman: Carbondale-to-Crested Butte Trail a work in progress

George Newman
Guest Commentary

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails is currently studying options for a Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail via the Crystal River Valley. This proposed trail is among the state’s 16 highest priority trail projects named by Gov. John Hickenlooper as part of the Colorado the Beautiful initiative.

While interest and momentum for the Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail is strong, the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners wants to make it clear to the community that no decisions or assumptions about the alignment of this trail have been made thus far and that all trail alignments will be considered.

Open Space and Trails is currently working with the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the environmental consultants of ERO Resources to assess wildlife habitat and potential environmental impacts in the Crystal River Valley. In addition, engineering consultants Loris and Associates are analyzing the feasibility and potential cost of the trail, based on alignment scenarios. The potential impacts of the trail are also being carefully studied in accordance with the county’s adopted biodiversity policy that states “the county will use the best available science for property-specific study of natural habitat conditions, including the role of the property in the context of larger habitat and wildlife patterns.”

Public input has been, and will continue to be, crucial once trail options have been thoroughly analyzed by the experts. With all of the excitement, enthusiasm and anxiety about the prospect of this trail, we are already receiving some public feedback with personal anecdotes or opinions based on assumptions. We ask that the community allow us time to compile and present the facts about the project before drawing conclusions about it.

We expect to have more information to share with you later this summer.

While we await our consultant’s analysis on this project, we want you to consider the track record of your Open Space and Trails program over the past 25 years. In that time, with the community’s overwhelming support, over 20,000 acres of open space has been conserved and over 70 miles of trails created. We have protected Sky Mountain Park and the North Star and Filoha Meadows nature preserves. Pitkin County took the lead on constructing the Rio Grande Trail connecting Aspen to Glenwood Springs by bicycle, foot and horse. Public input and science have helped us craft management plans for these trails and open spaces that protect wildlife through full closures to human access or seasonal closures with rangers to enforce them.

The planning process for the Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail will reflect the county’s commitment to science-based management decisions and will encourage and embrace robust public input and involvement.

For the latest information and to sign up for email notifications of public meetings and opportunities to comment, please visit the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails project website at .

George Newman is chairman of the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.

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