MidValley Trails Committee going ahead with Stage Road plans
A midvalley group is moving ahead with a plan to turn an old road that was used a century ago in the Fryingpan Valley into a recreational trail.The MidValley Trails Committee has concluded that legal evidence shows the road has remained in public hands even though it hasn’t been in use since probably the 1920s. The route, referred to as Stage Road, ran from Basalt to Hagerman Pass on the Continental Divide and presumably down to Leadville, according to the committee’s research.”We’re going forward on the premise that Eagle County never vacated the road,” said Temple Glassier, a consultant working for the trails committee, which is affiliated with Eagle County government.The road fell out of favor when the Midland Railroad went bankrupt and its rails were ripped out by 1920. The grade was converted into the main traveling route through the valley.In his definitive history of the valley, author Earl Elmont never refers to Stage Road in his book “Basalt and the Frying Pan.” He refers instead to a Highline Road that was built when the state legislature budgeted $7,000 in 1899.Glassier said an attorney hired by the trails committee found no evidence that Eagle County took the formal action of “vacating” the old wagon road, regardless of its name.However, the county hasn’t protected the right of way either. Private property and even houses encroach on that right of way. That could impair efforts to establish the trail.The trails committee wants to focus on re-establishing the route on the 14 miles between Basalt and Ruedi Reservoir. It would an unimproved, dirt surface.”We have some property owners that are going to fight,” said trails committee member David Hamilton. “They think the road has been abandoned.”The committee hopes to pass a peace pipe before a fight breaks out. Glassier is researching the property owners along the route. They will be sent letters as soon as possible asking them to attend a meeting or contact committee chairwoman Jacque Whitsitt so the plan can be discussed.Despite that effort, the issue has similarities to the fight over the north trail into Hunter Creek Valley, Aspen’s favorite playground. Wealthy landowners on Red Mountain tried to close access to public lands on the north road in 1987.After years of political and legal battles, Pitkin County and the U.S. Forest Service earned a court ruling that the road was never vacated. The governments probably wouldn’t have pursued the issue if not pushed by a citizens’ group called Friends of Hunter Creek.Hamilton said there is support for the trail among some Fryingpan Valley homeowners who live along Stage Road or next to it. He suggested the trails committee harness that support with a “Friends of Stage Road” group.The trails committee hasn’t scheduled a meeting yet where property owners – friend or foe – can learn more about the plan. Once set, it will be publicized, according to Whitsitt. Until then, people with questions can call her at 927-2414.
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