AVON — Amid the largest crowd Mayor Rich Carroll has ever seen at a regular meeting, council members Tuesday approved a network of trails in the town’s open space.
Construction on the 6.5-mile network of trails for the area north of town known as the West Avon Preserve is expected to begin June 1 by Momentum Construction of Denver.
The council heard a variety of enthusiastic comments from Vail Valley residents including Avon resident Cody Wyse, who got choked up as he described how the trail system “will improve my ability to spend time with my family,” and Singletree resident John Shipp, who offered to donate $5,000, saying he wanted to “put my money where my mouth is.”
While the majority of the 30 speakers were in favor of the plan, which includes 6.5 miles of trails in total, some hesitation was expressed regarding space referred to as the “plateau area” of existing trails and user conflicts in that area. While they approved the plan as is, council members pledged to work with residents and Momentum, the company who will build the trails, to make slight alterations to the plan in the weeks leading up to the build.
“The management plan can be amended,” said Scott Conklin with the Eagle Valley Land Trust, who oversees the deed on the land. “I don’t see any reason why that would be a problem.”
Upon approval of the motion, which included an amendment to ensure both electric bikes and smoking would be banned in the area, the crowd of 50 exploded with applause.
“I’m getting near the end of my eight years here and this is without a doubt the most packed this chamber has been for a topic,” Carroll said. “I think it really speaks to the love of the land and how much we treasure that open space we have up in Avon.”
Before construction can begin, the Eagle Valley Land Trust will also have to approve the plan at their regular meeting on Friday. Conklin said he doesn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be approved.
“All of our concerns have been addressed,” he said.
Another concern expressed by Wildridge resident Peter Warren “at the risk of getting back home alive,” he said with a laugh, is that the process has moved too quickly.
Darcy Buster, also of Wildridge, agreed.
“I don’t understand why hikers weren’t involved until a week and a half ago,” she said.
Singletree resident Lee Rimel responded with a detailed history of all the work that has been done on the area, dating back to 2005 — long before the land was controlled by Avon and the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
“It’s been very well publicized,” Rimel said.
Council member Jennie Fancher addressed the timing in a brief statement before voting in favor of the trails plan.
“Without failure, when there’s a big issue, people pop in — and I’m guilty of it myself — at the last minute, thinking they haven’t had ample opportunity to put in their input,” Fancher said. “But we are here, two times per month, for your input. These trails, I think, are great, and I would like to move forward with them.”