Aspen Valley Land Trust defends position on trail dispute |

Aspen Valley Land Trust defends position on trail dispute

Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) has filed its answer to Friends of Verena Mallory Park’s amended complaint, which goes beyond the court’s directive. It is unfortunate that Friends and its counsel have seen fit to “litigate” in the press and that AVLT must now cure that record as is now allowed.

AVLT has never desired to “destroy” the trail, and we appreciate that it is loved by many. We are now committed to the legal process and the fair determination of the sole remaining issue — which is whether the trail at Verena Mallory Park has become a public road by prescriptive easement. Friends was directed by the court to focus on this one issue; the group has instead filed statements by individuals containing their views and past recollections about the Benedicts’ donative intentions. The court has held that Friends does not have standing to advance these issues.

AVLT finds that the best evidence of donor intent is what was put down in writing. There are two very clear deeds as well as a Pitkin County resolution establishing this as a quiet park for public enjoyment and picnicking, with designated public access but no through-trail. The Benedicts prepared and signed these documents with full knowledge that the trail in question was there. The interesting statements about what others might think was actually intended by the Benedicts are irrelevant to the question at hand and in some cases misinformed about the circumstances surrounding the park donation. These statements ignore the documents that matter, as well as the people who present conflicting views and evidence to those recently publicized in the press.

Fabi and Fritz Benedict were equal partners and they acted of sound mind and with deliberation as a team — their actions indicate they wanted a public park, with a picnic area. Indeed, the Benedicts’ daughter Jessica Benedict-Gordon confirms her parents’ equal partnership and notes that, while Fritz Benedict loved his trails and biking, Fabi Benedict did not care for bikes on hiking trails and in quiet spaces. The park was created at Fabi’s urging. That siblings would have different views on the matter is exactly why courts look to the signed documents.

Friends’s hyperbole about AVLT not “doing the right thing” and wanting only to destroy the trail is untrue and unfairly frustrates the very mission and important work AVLT has been engaged in for decades and will continue to do. AVLT was founded as a neutral nongovernmental organization to preserve treasured open spaces forever in the face of often shifting political winds. To do that, it relies on complete integrity with its donors to uphold its legal and ethical obligations. Our role as land “trust” is sacrosanct, and if AVLT finds it somehow did not uphold its obligations, it will take appropriate action as it has done here.

We appreciate the public’s patience and continued support as this legal issue is considered and decided fairly by the court.

Suzanne Stephens

Executive Director, Aspen Valley Land Trust


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