Trails plan draws standing-room crowd
AVON — The town presented its new trails master plan Wednesday to a standing-room-only crowd at Town Hall.
The plan outlines 13 trails across five areas north of Interstate 70 in Avon, totaling about 12 miles of new trails. It was presented as an update of the existing trails master plan, which was conceived in 2009.
“The goals of this trails plan update are to increase connectivity, to allow for additional opportunities for recreational trails in town, while also connecting to regional trails systems,” Matt Pielsticker, Avon town planner, told the crowd of about 70 at the meeting. “Other goals are to fully evaluate the environmental visibility constraints. We also want to estimate the cost to build and maintain trails. … Also we want to get input.”
Alexander Nees, an environmental services project scientist with Olsson Associates, was hired by the town to evaluate the plan.
Nees told attendees that while the town has an outstanding sidewalk and paved multi-use system in the town’s core, there is a desire for more connections to that town core.
“There are some difficulties with getting from one end of town to the other, or one piece of the recreational amenity to the other, without dodging traffic or getting in your car,” Nees said.
UPPER METCALF trails FIRST
Of the five areas identified for new trail construction, the area known as Upper Metcalf has the highest priority, Nees said. The Upper Metcalf area is the drainage zone above the truck turnaround on Metcalf road, where the road makes a large hairpin turn. A trailhead area would be located in the vicinity of the truck turnaround, according to the plan, with a climbing trail going up the drainage and two descending trails back down to the trailhead.
“These trails are the current highest level of priority in our estimation,” Nees said, “based on some pretty clear feedback from community members that this type of experience is desired.”
The town of Avon has allocated funding for construction of the Upper Metcalf trails in 2016. Those trails would be hand-built, as opposed to the machine construction seen on Lee’s Way Down and some of the other popular trails in the nearby West Avon Preserve.
Like Lee’s Way Down, “At least one of (the Upper Metcalf descending trails) would be designed to be technically challenging and attract more experienced mountain bikers,” he said.
The trails in the West Avon Preserve, which were approved in 2014, saw a similar public input process at that time, also attracting standing-room-only crowds to Avon Town Hall. Residents at that time expressed similar concerns as those expressed on Tuesday night.
“Those trails are cutting through some significant wildlife habitat,” Wildridge resident and wildlife photographer Rick Spitzer said on Tuesday. “Also, I have two people that I know who bike on these trails, and they say within the next couple of years this will become a world class mountain-bike trail system. … I wonder about what happens to a world class mountain-bike trail, does that bring in tens of thousands of people?”
Several residents complained about downhill mountain-bikers being shuttled up to the Beaver Creek Point trailhead to access Lee’s Way Down.
“What astounds me is you want to build more trails, yet we have trails and they don’t ride them, they drive up,” said homeowner Laurie Baker. “Don’t come down Beaver Creek Point and loop around with somebody, dropping them off on Lee’s Way. It affects our lives dramatically.”
Bill Hoblitzell, of the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association, told residents they have the opportunity to make the proposed trail system fit their needs.
“You can say this is for residents, we’re not going to have events,” he said. “We’re concerned about wildlife, talk to biologists. Maybe seasonal closures are an appropriate choice there.”
MORE COMMENTS REQUESTED
Pielsticker said while the purpose of the meeting was to present the plan and get input from the community, there will be plenty more chances for residents and stakeholders to offer their opinions on the plan.
The feedback will be presented to a trails steering committee, which will then present a plan to Avon’s planning and zoning commission on July 6, during which time the public will also have a chance to comment. For the Upper Metcalf trails to see construction this fall, the Avon Planning and Zoning Commission would have to offer a favorable recommendation to the Avon Town Council following its July 6 meeting. The council could then take it up on July 26.
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