Put wildlife first in Crystal Valley

Congratulations to Crystal Valley resident Dee Malone for an insightful column detailing the drawbacks of the paved bike trail proposed by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails through critical wildlife habitat and National Forest land along the east banks of the Crystal River. Malone’s main contention is that in situations like this, we should be listening to the professionals at Colorado Parks and Wildlife (formerly Colorado Division of Wildlife) who have strongly opposed such a trail in the past. She is absolutely correct.

It seems like just last fall, when Pitkin Open Space and Trails was asking voters to extend their charter, they promised us they would make the needs of wildlife paramount. Now, with the ink on their new charter barely dry, they appear to be returning to a policy of trails and humans first, wildlife second. In addition, as the west side of the Crystal River is already paved with Highway 133 and its parallel paved bike trail up to Nettle Creek, what sense does it make to have pavement on both sides of one of America’s cleanest and most scenic rivers? Or new bridges across the river? Smart principles of multi-modal transportation planning advise concentrating transportation corridors into as narrow a zone as possible, not having pavement sprawl along both sides of a beautiful river valley. Many legal bike trails invariably lead to illegal “bandit” or “user created” trails that branch off the sides of legal routes, further crowding out wildlife. These trails would be a disaster on the relatively wild east side of the Crystal.

Above all, with President Donald Trump launching an all-out frontal attack on environmental values and wildlife habitat protection, we need to pay extra attention to the professionals at Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Put the needs of wildlife at the very top when planning future projects. There are already hundreds of miles of paved and soft surface recreational trails in our local valleys, and we do not need to be carving new trails through prime wildlife areas. Horseback riders and hikers are in need of soft-track trails, leading from the valley floors to trail head access points. Paved biker paths are everywhere. Let’s add soft track to this important corridor, along the banks of the Crystal River.

Keep it on the west side, Open Space and Trails.

Holly McLain