By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
The Pitkin County Open Space & Trails department last week got its first look at public preferences regarding plans to build a bicycle trail from Carbondale to Crested Butte (a former mining town turned ski resort in Gunnison County), following open-houses that drew more than 130 people to two meetings in Redstone and Carbondale.
The county has about $300,000 to work with in the trail-planning task — $100,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado (GoCo) and $200,000 from the Open Space & Trails (OS&T) itself.
A statement on the county’s website declared that the next step in the process will be “selection of ecological and engineering consultants to help plan options for routing the trail.”
Further input from the public, the web site statement continued, would be sought in open-house gatherings next summer, and the entire planning process leading to proposals for specific routes is expected to take up to two years.
In the wake of the first round of “kick-off” meetings, as the open houses were called, OS&T officials are working through responses to a survey that asked respondents to write down their thoughts on what the trail planning effort should take into account.
The answers indicated that area residents want the county to consider everything from wildlife preservation to talks by experts with local homeowners’ associations, and a whole lot more.
In the survey the county asked several questions, seeking respondents’ ideas about certain aspects of the broader project.
• How planners could best go about seeking community input;
• What kinds of information should be incorporated into the final “decision matrix” that will be used to come up with proposed routes;
• Which “elements” that “make the Crystal Valley special” need to be preserved, managed and maintained in light of the proposed trail; and
• “What would make the Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail a success?”
According to survey results uploaded onto the county’s Open Space & Trails web site (www.pitkinostprojects.com), the questions generated about 20 answers apiece, as of Jan. 19. The survey questions have been left up on the website, and answers by respondents will be recorded and tallied until Feb. 24.
Questions & Answers
In their answers, respondents dealt with a wide range of topics, such as one demand that the process be modified to include “a series of presentation from wildlife experts, not just local ‘know-it-alls,’” and that the presentations not be in an “open house” format but be built around factual statements by the experts that citizens could then respond to.
One of those experts, another respondent wrote, could be Betsy Jacobson, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s manager of trails and other concerns, who could talk about the impact of trails construction on other towns and regions around the state.
One respondent seemed to consider the public-input effort for a trail of this length (approximately 83 miles, according to Pitkin County) as “a major outreach challenge” that would be all but impossible to accomplish meaningfully, due to the diversity of communities and distances involved.
Instead, the respondent suggested, the county should tackle the public outreach by using videos instead of meetings in public venues.
Many of those who submitted answers, though, seemed to think the trail can be built, though there was a broad array of ideas concerning how that should be done.
One answer insisted that wildlife impacts be the primary concern for the trail planners, especially impacts on the ailing Bighorn sheep population that lives in the area of Avalanche Creek and Filoha Meadows, a few miles north of Redstone.
Another suggested the planners avoid the heavily traveled Highway 133 pass route used by vehicular traffic, and find a way to use the old McClure Pass Road that is still visible just to the north of the newer one.
That route, the respondent wrote, “has a gentle grade, great views, and no right of way issues,” at least as far as the route over into the North Fork Valley is concerned.
From Carbondale to near the Highway 133 turnoff to Marble, several said the trail should be built in the highway right of way, perhaps on widened shoulders on both sides of the roadway.
And one suggestion was to route the trail through Marble and over the Schofield Pass (10,707-foot elevation) to Crested Butte, perhaps including construction of a paved, one-lane trail “on especially steep segments.”
The entire array of answers to the survey question, currently numbering about 180 but likely to increase over the course of the next couple of weeks, can be read at the OS&T website.