Mountain bike path runs into opposition |

Mountain bike path runs into opposition

Special to the DailyThe Aspen Times Residents of the Crystal River County Estates subdivision fear that sharing their privately owned bridge with users of a proposed trail will be unsafe and make them liable for accidents.

ASPEN – Pitkin County’s plan for a cycling and pedestrian trail that could eventually link Carbondale and Crested Butte is facing its first big test with homeowners in the Crystal Valley.The county wants to allow bikers to ride along the banks of the Crystal River on a spectacular 1.25-mile stretch halfway between Carbondale and Redstone. The old railroad creates a well-used dirt trail right at the river’s edge.That trail might eventually be paved and incorporated into the main biking/hiking trail or it might be preserved as a mellower dirt link, serving more as a linear park. That decision hasn’t been made yet, according to Dale Will, director of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program.

For now, though, the trail is going nowhere. Homeowners in the Crystal River Country Estates subdivision have blocked passage on a sliver of the trail they own on the south end.Most homeowners in the 35-lot subdivision say they don’t have a problem with the public using the dirt trail, they just don’t believe it’s safe to for people to cross the river on their private bridge, said Lee Hollowell, the homeowners’ association president. The bridge is too narrow for vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists to pass safely.Hollowell said residents typically have to make split-second decisions about turning off curvy Highway 133 to avoid collisions or getting rear-ended. If numerous bikers and hikers are added to the mix, it’s a recipe for disaster, he said.Hollowell acknowledged there are people who support the trail and some who oppose it within the subdivision, but the clear consensus is the bridge isn’t safe enough to share.

“If we can avoid that, that’s our main concern,” he said. “It would be terrible for anyone to get hurt there.”So the subdivision has blocked about 8 feet of the south end of the trail with thick chains and private property signs. The bridge is also posted as private property.If the residents refuse to share their bridge, the county could build its own bridge for between $50,000 and $100,000, Will said.But it’s not that simple, Hollowell and other residents said. They said the gravel approach off of Highway 133 at their bridge isn’t big enough to accommodate parking. They contend safety issues and liability for subdivision residents would still exist even if the county builds a separate pedestrian bridge.

They suggested the county should negotiate with the U.S. Forest Service to build a pedestrian bridge farther north.Will made a “pure guess” that a trail could be completed to the county line on McClure Pass by 2012. It would be paved to Redstone; gravel beyond. Vail, Colorado

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