Relief is in sight for Rio Grande Trail users |

Relief is in sight for Rio Grande Trail users

Now that the Rio Grande Trail has matured and attracts 70,000 trips by users annually, an effort has been launched to “get the Lycra out of the bushes.”

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) says it is time to install some bathrooms along the stretch of the 42-mile trail it oversees. Some private landowners along the trail corridor in the middle and lower valley say cyclists and pedestrians are straying into the bushes on their property to relieve themselves.

Public bathrooms are few and far between on the trail, between Aspen and Glenwood Springs. Regular trail users inevitably find themselves in a position of seeking out vegetation near the trail for a place to whiz and nervously glancing over their shoulders to make sure no one is coming.

RFTA wants to provide some relief to the relieving process. It teamed with Garfield County to apply for a $44,623 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado to build two vault toilets and two picnic shelters on the lower trail. Each would be a single-seater capable of handling an estimated 15,000 uses before the toilets need to be pumped out, according to RFTA material.

Robert Comey, RFTA’s Rio Grande Trail manager, suggested installing one vault toilet in the Cattle Creek area of the trail. That’s between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale. He proposed installing the second vault toilet one-half mile upvalley from the Catherine Bridge trailhead. That’s between Carbondale and Basalt. RFTA maintains the trail from Emma to Glenwood Springs. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails maintains the trail upvalley from Emma.

Comey said trail users as well as affected landowners want the bathrooms installed. “This is where the phrase, ‘Get the Lycra out of the bushes’ comes from,'” he said.

The grant will also fund two picnic shelters in the general vicinity of the new vault bathrooms.

Members of RFTA’s board of directors welcomed news of bathroom installations. Board chairman Michael Owsley said lack of public facilities is an issue the entire length of the corridor. The Woody Creek Tavern gets inundated with cyclists on a bathroom break, including those who aren’t customers, he said.

However, Owsley and other board members said they want to put more grunt work at a later date into placement of the bathrooms. They questioned the placement of the Catherine-area toilet in particular. It is proposed along a stretch of trail that is closed five months of the year.

“In the final analysis, people will ask us, ‘Why did you put this there?'” Owsley said.

Construction on the toilets could start as soon as August, but they won’t be ready for occupancy until next summer.

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