Crystal Valley Trail needs scrutiny

The Pitkin County Commissioners held a presentation on the proposed Crystal River Trail at the Carbondale Town Hall on Wednesday. The surprising piece of news for me is that the trail project is divided into phases that follow a timeline of some 20 years. Also, that some of the phases may never be built due to land ownership and construction costs.

The first phase is the piece between Redstone and the top of McClure Pass. The presenter said this was preferred by those who commented on the Trail proposal. The last piece to be built, or not, would be a short section attaching to the end of the current trail at the BRB Resort; perhaps 20 years from now.

The existing trail out of Carbondale has become very popular. The views of farmland and the Crystal River along the way are very appealing. The bike path extends about five miles from town and makes for a good piece of exercise for bikes, roller blades and walkers. Some riders continue along the highway to Redstone and beyond.

The question is, why not extend the existing trail that is already in use? Why instead put a trailhead at Redstone that trail users are going to have to drive to? Really, there are very few, if any, users of the existing trail that are just determined to ride to Crested Butte; 80 miles away.

There are obvious difficulties with this stretch of the proposed trail. There is a subdivision to the east side of the river, very little river bank along the highway, and a steep hill to the west. Here is one solution. Install preconstructed sections of trail on piers along the east edge of the highway to a piece of land that lays just beyond the subdivision. The distance is about half a mile. There, construct a bridge across the river to connect to the old railroad grade. The railroad grade is relatively open all the way to the Avalanche Creek area. This scenario would add some 5 miles to the existing trail, making it about 10 miles in total.

There are two campgrounds in Avalanche Creek that could accommodate people that would enjoy the ride to Carbondale. The round trip option means that no cars are needed from either direction.

The possibility still exists to widen the shoulders on Highway 133 going further south. Bicyclists have ridden this highway for decades. There are just a few pinch points. Apparently CDOT has said they are short of funds to widen the pavement. Of course, they will say that; lame as that may sound. Naturally, CDOT would prefer to get all bicyclists off all their highways. But then, skinny tired bicycles are called “road bikes” for a reason. I don’t think the Tour de France is run on bike paths.

Patrick Hunter