Pitkin County open space staff memo says funds exist for Crystal Valley Trail | PostIndependent.com

Pitkin County open space staff memo says funds exist for Crystal Valley Trail

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
This file photo from last fall shows the Upper Crystal River Valley. The proposed trail from Redstone to the summit of McClure Pass would be a dirt, singletrack route.
Aspen Times file photo

The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails staff said in a memo released Monday that is has figured out an economically feasible way to construct the Crystal Valley Trail to the summit of McClure Pass over the next 22 years.

The memo released Monday advises the county commissioners to pursue a 10-foot wide, asphalt trail from where the current Crystal Trail stops south of Carbondale to Redstone, then a dirt, singletrack trail from Redstone to the summit of McClure Pass. The surface type from the 7 Oaks neighborhood to Redstone hasn’t been determined yet, the memo noted. A soft surface would reduce the cost.

The open space and trails fund “can handle the majority of expenses” of the trail using that strategy, the memo said.

“In certain years, the costs might require the full capacity of the trail fund and staff time to complete, but this will be balanced by future boards with other program needs,” the staff said. “Ensuring that future boards have the capacity to complete the full mission of the Open Space and Trails program is essential and that is why the trail project is phased over a 22-year time frame.”

If other funding sources materialize, it could reduce the length of phasing of the project.

No decisions are imminent on the trail but the county commissioners are holding a joint meeting with the advisory open space board Tuesday to discuss the cost of the trail and the public process that will be used to reach a decision.

The open space staff says there are still five hotspots between the Crystal River KOA, where the current trail stops, and Redstone where an alignment needs more study. A specific route will be recommended on other sections of the roughly 10 miles to Redstone.

The issue has been controversial because landowners have been opposed to construction of a trail near their homes and several people have objected to potential effects on wildlife. Extensive public outreach is being organized on a draft trail plan. It will include public presentations in Redstone, Carbondale and Aspen. The county commissioners must approve details but the meetings are tentatively set for May.

A big part of Tuesday’s discussion will be expenses. County commissioners and open space board members expressed concerns at a meeting in March that the expense of the multi-million-dollar trail might be more than the program could absorb. The draft plan said construction is manageable with phasing through 2039.

But the open space staff said the property tax reauthorized by voters in 2016 would raise enough to cover the costs.

“For the entirely of the trail, from the southern terminus of the existing Crystal Trail to the top of McClure Pass, the cost range is approximately $36.8 to $64.5 million, including the cost of bridges to connect various segments as needed,” the staff memo says.

Tuesday’s trail meeting is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. and last until 3:15 pm at the Pitkin County Library.