Letter: In search of a holy grail | AspenTimes.com

Letter: In search of a holy grail

For years, the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association has been seeking a “holy grail” trail alignment that will connect cyclists from the White River National Forest lands of the Hunter Creek Valley down to the city of Aspen and the Rio Grande Trail. Most cyclists currently finish their rides in the area by descending over a mile and 400 vertical feet on paved roads. We advocated for the acquisition of the Lindsay Parcel and urged the city of Aspen to strongly consider implementation of the Portal Trail alignment during the management planning process.

While approvals for the trail alignment have seemed imminent at times, in recent months, it became apparent that intersecting the very upper portion of the proposed alignment with the existing Verena Mallory Trail would require approval from the Aspen Valley Land Trust, as it is entrusted to hold and protect the parcel of land that the trail resides upon. We are incredibly disappointed to learn that the Aspen Valley Land Trust has decided that abiding by the parcel’s deed restrictions will require it to close the trail and rehabilitate the route.

The Verena Mallory Trail has served as a highly valued, jug-handle-shaped, alternate route to the adjacent Hunter Creek Trail, just above the Benedict Bridge. Hikers, runners, cyclists and those simply sitting down to enjoy the views available along the trail will truly lament the loss of this community asset, which has been in continuous use for more than 20 years. We anticipate emotional responses to the loss of this trail, including anger and confusion. While the Aspen Valley Land Trust has identified a remedy to maintain its legal stewardship of the land, we will continue to advocate for common-sense solutions that take into account the history, provenance and function of this trail within the context of the overall system.

While we disagree with the current chosen direction, we must respect the Aspen Valley Land Trust’s decision in this matter, just as we must respect the land-use decisions of all private landowners and public land managers. The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association is heartened to know that city of Aspen and Pitkin County staff fully understand the critical importance of the proposed Portal alignment to the overall trail system. Alternate alignments for the upper portion of the Portal Trail will be under serious consideration, and major improvements to the steepest, rockiest section of the Hunter Creek Trail will likely be undertaken in order to safely accommodate the increase in two-way traffic that this stretch of trail will receive. While the quest for this holy grail continues, we will remain focused on achieving the best possible trail system and experiences throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

Mike Pritchard

Executive director, Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association