Glenwood Springs to explore Sopris View trail design costs
Building hiking trails on property behind Glenwood Springs’ Walmart stuttered forward Thursday, following a pair of City Council motions.
During the council’s regular session, City Attorney Karl Hanlon presented terms and conditions presented by parties involved in a potential trail system, dubbed Sopris View.
Displaced and homeless residents have previously created long-term campsites in the area, which were addressed in a recent cleanup effort by the city and Garfield County.
Building a trail system in the area could “activate” the land, making it less attractive to people seeking a location for long term, and under the radar, campsites.
Hanlon advised the city against annexing or purchasing the land, because a private property owner could enforce a no trespassing policy, whereas the city couldn’t. Also, the land could be a liability for the city if a fire started on the property and spread to nearby developments.
Fires have previously started on the property as a result of long-term campers, council member Shelley Kaup said.
Instead, the property’s owner, Dave Forenza, could donate the land to Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT), which could then donate the land to Bell Rippy developer Four Points Development, after which, Glenwood Springs could create a trail easement on the property.
Forenza is willing to donate the land on the condition it is not developed in the future and remains a place for public access, Hanlon explained.
Before everything is set in motion, however, Four Points is requesting Glenwood Springs’ guarantee a trail system will be built, regardless of cost.
The goal of Thursday’s update was to assess whether the council was willing to make that guarantee before city staff solicited a trail design, which could cost about $50,000, Hanlon said.
“If the city is not committed, I don’t see a deal coming together in the future,” he said.
Several council members expressed discomfort with guaranteeing to build a trail system without knowing the cost.
“Why are we talking about this with all the other needs in this community?” council member Tony Hershey asked. “This seems like a nonstarter. I’d rather spend another $80,000 to clean it up in a few years than millions of dollars and have our trails destroyed and people camping there.”
Mayor Jonathan Godes said the city is facing a labor shortage, so finding employees to maintain the trail system could be challenging. Parking for the trails, which is currently undetermined, could cost the city a significant sum.
For council member Marco Dehm, the lack of available cost estimates was a problem. Dehm said he would consider moving forward with a conversation about the trails if the city provided an estimated design cost.
Council members who supported guaranteeing a trail before cost was determined said the trail system was important to the community.
“With the completion of the Bell Rippy project, this is an appropriate use of this land,” Council Member Ingrid Wussow said, emphasizing that a trail would not need to be built all at once.
Council Member Shelley Kaup said the city could take the first step and seek partners, including Garfield County, during the process.
And council member Paula Stepp reinforced a desire to move forward while seeking financial partners.
“We need to take care of the community, too,” Stepp said. “These are the types of things that people who live here want. The city can’t carry the (financial) burden, but we can all carry it together.”
Mayor Pro Tem Charlie Willman said a new trail system was not the city’s current priority, so he made a motion not to move forward with a trail system guarantee absent a cost estimate. Hershey seconded the motion, which passed 4-3, with Stepp, Kaup and Wussow voting against.
Kaup followed Willman’s motion with a motion to direct staff to solicit a trail design and bring the matter back before council after a cost estimate was complete. Stepp seconded the motion, which passed 6-1, with Hershey voting against.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at email@example.com.
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