Glenwood Springs Council commits to finishing contested Atkinson Canal Trail |

Glenwood Springs Council commits to finishing contested Atkinson Canal Trail

Pete FowlerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado Property owners negotiating with the city over easements for the Atkinson Canal Trail may have until September to reach an agreement or face condemnation.At this point in time, at a staff level, we do not feel we have reached an impasse in the negotiations that are underway, said city manager Jeff Hecksel.The City Council voted to 6-1 Thursday night to proceed with the southernmost phase of the trail, from near the Mountain Market by Threemile Creek along the west side of the Roaring Fork River to the Cardiff Bridge. The trail would be built for now as a soft trail with road base and this step would cost about $800,000. Plans call for the trail to reach the Sunlight Bridge at 27th Street for a total of around $4.4 million.Councilor Dave Merritt cast the lone vote against proceeding. He said cost is very expensive and rising. Plus, the Rio Grande Trail was recently extended into Glenwood, he added, and although the Atkinson Canal Trail would provide a good connection, it would not help access for elementary school students because it would be covered by snow for much of the school year.Merritt said that voters did approve the trail in 1998 the same time they approved a theater complex that hasnt yet been built. Theres also a number of existing trails that arent well maintained, he said.Trail supporters have said the City Council has no legal authority to deviate from the trails location because votes approved public funding for the trail, which would build out the citys river corridor plan. Critics contend a concrete bike trail would harm wildlife habitat, invade their privacy and cause problems like littering and vagrancy. They maintain that easements behind homes on Hager Lane do not allow for a bike corridor.Cheryl Guay said that because of the cost being higher than when voters approved the trail in the past, the matter should go to citizens again for a vote.This is not a feasible situation, she said. Were talking $4 million plus for one mile of a bike trail.Mark Smith said the issue of eminent domain should only be used for dire circumstances.I think the city has the hammer, but I think the wise person uses the hammer only because they have to, not because they have it, he said.He believes most people are in favor of the trail, just not paving it with concrete. He and others asked the city to consider keeping it a soft trail and not paving it with concrete.Councilor Kris Chadwick said, I think that we have an obligation to the voters to carry through with the conclusion of the trail.One part of the City Councils motion means if remaining easements cant be obtained through negotiation within three months after a notice to proceed with construction is issued to a contractor, the city will use its power of eminent domain.Hecksel said the notice to proceed would probably be issued in June, leaving until September for negotiations. But he added that theres still a good amount of time to work with property owners.Were confident that we can reach agreement, he said.Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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