Aspen wins fight to build trail through backyards
ASPEN, Colorado ” The city of Aspen has won a court ruling that allows the parks department to build a trail through the backyards of homeowners on the east side of town.
Pitkin County District Court Judge James Boyd last week denied a preliminary injunction request filed by local residents Kurt D. Duldner and Kenneth and Sandra J. Nichols, who were attempting to prevent the city from constructing the East of Aspen Trail.
They claimed the trail extension would violate their property rights, and sought an injunction to keep the city from completing the trail extension, which would connect the Snyder Park trail with McSkimming Road on Aspen’s east side.
The suit came after the Aspen City Council in March approved the trail extension. The suit contends that although the city has a trail easement on the property in question, it is private and not for public use.
Judge Boyd ruled against the injunction because he didn’t believe the plaintiffs would likely win their argument in a court trial.
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“In light of the failure to show a reasonable probability of success, the court need not consider the other factors for a preliminary junction,” Boyd wrote in his ruling.
Those other factors included that the residents in the Woerndle subdivision, where the trail will be built, have proposed an alternate route which would go along Alpine Court and Highway 82. The trail would be a sidewalk under the residents’ proposal.
They argued a preliminary injunction is proper because they have asked to relocate the trail at their expense.
But Boyd shot down that argument as well.
“The term ‘trail’ generally connotes a natural setting, not an urban one,” he wrote. “A trail along a water course removed from vehicle traffic is an amenity different in kind than a sidewalk along a state highway.”
The trail will be located along the Salvation Ditch, which crosses the plaintiffs’ properties. In 1974, the Woerndle family agreed to a 10-foot-wide easement on each side of the ditch, as well as a 10-foot-wide multi-purpose trail in exchange for the land to be annexed into the city of Aspen and the property to be subdivided.
The plaintiffs argued that the grant was limited to a private easement to be used by city employees only.
“This suggestion is inconsistent with the grant of a ‘multi-purpose trail,'” Boyd wrote, adding plaintiffs failed to show reasonable probability of success on that argument as well.
“Plaintiffs and their predecessors enjoyed long use of their land free from city and public use of a benefit the Woerndles gave many years ago,” Boyd wrote. “The hardship to plaintiffs is palpable but a hardship they accepted by acquiring land subject to choices made long ago by prior owners.”
City Attorney John Worcester said Boyd made a reasoned opinion on residents’ “last ditch” effort to stop the trail from being constructed. He added that he has asked the parks and recreation department to work with residents to ameliorate the impacts of the trail as much as possible.
The entire cost of the East of Aspen Trail, which includes two phases, is estimated at $350,000. The trail extension, which is about a quarter of a mile long, is scheduled to be built this month.