Pitkin County aims to add glitter to the Crown mountain bike trail network | PostIndependent.com
Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

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Pitkin County aims to add glitter to the Crown mountain bike trail network

Planning is underway for a project that is being hailed by mountain biking enthusiasts as a way to improve safety and boost the fun of accessing a midvalley trail network that is surging in popularity.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails will hold an open house May 17 on the planning and design of a new trail connection and parking on Prince Creek Road. Public comments are being accepted and are due May 24.

The open space staff wants to reach out to people who know and use the extensive trail network on the Crown, a vast area overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and get advice on the design of the improvements, said Lindsey Utter, planning and outreach manager.

"What would make it a successful connection?" is the essential question, she said.

The county acquired the easement for parking and a trail as part of the Sutey Ranch land exchange. Currently, vehicles park in a haphazard way on a wide spot in Prince Creek Road at the entrance to the rural subdivision. That access along Prince Creek Road is the primary way to get on the Crown trail network.

Pitkin County gained an easement for parking about 1.5 miles lower in the valley, closer to Carbondale. A new, soft-surface trail will be constructed between the new parking and the start of the Prince Creek network's lowest trail, known as Monte Carlo.

The proposal will create a safer environment, said Todd Fugate, a riding enthusiast from Carbondale who is among the cyclists who have worked with the Bureau of Land Management on the Crown network of trails.

"The parking was getting out of control," Fugate said. The residents of the nearby subdivision have been friendly about the situation, he said, but they have endured years of their area being burdened by a large number of vehicles, particularly on weekends.

The Prince Creek network is popular spring, summer and fall. It's particularly popular at this time of year because the southern-oriented trails dry out quickly while many upper valley trails remain closed.

Pitkin County will build a 1.5-mile connector trail from the new parking area to the existing single-track trail, Utter said. Input is needed on the type of trail — such as single-track or gravel path. The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association said in a monthly newsletter released Monday that it will lobby the open space program for two single-track trails, one for uphill and one for downhill traffic, that parallel Prince Creek Road.

"With directional trails being the gold standard, having parallel trails in this tight corridor could make a big difference for both the safety and fun factors of this high-use access trail project," association director Mike Pritchard wrote in the newsletter.

Fugate said getting cyclists off the road is the prime goal. Some people ride from Carbondale, so adding trails gets them off the road and improves safety. Getting two directional trails is desirable, he agreed.

"That would be the best-case scenario," he said.

Fugate and Pritchard acknowledged the corridor is constrained, so two trails could be difficult. Utter said there's a chance two trails could be accommodated.

Fugate said some Carbondale-area riders are already taking about the improvements. "I think there will be a huge turnout on this," he said.

After public comment is collected by May 24, the open space staff will work on a draft plan and present it to the open space and trails program's board of directors on June 6. An open house will be held on the plan on a date to be determined, then public comment will be accepted through June 30. The goal is to adopt a plan by July 13 so that construction can start this summer, according to Utter. The work will probably have to be completed in phases this year and next, she said.

More on the project and a place to submit comments can be found at http://www.pitkinostprojects.com.

scondon@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO

What: Public open house on Prince Creek open space management plan

When: May 17 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Where: Carbondale Town Hall

The issue: Public input wanted to help design parking area/trailhead and 1.5-mile trail