The Sopris Sun

Trustees talk trail, begin budgeting

By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

The Town of Carbondale is taking its opportunity to comment on the Crystal River Trail seriously — though it might be a while before everyone can agree on what exactly to say.

A short public comment period kicked off the discussion at the trustee meeting Oct. 24, setting the tone and giving constituents another chance to be heard. Still, several speakers directly addressed a sense that Pitkin County Open Space and Trails wasn’t really listening.

“It’s almost like this is manifest destiny — something that’s going to happen no matter what,” said Bill Argeros.

Others, like Chuck Downey, saw room for compromise.

“If you’d like to make it more inclusive, it’s gotta take combinations of A and B,” he said.

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Kate Hudson took it a step further by advocating for the inclusion of educational opportunities and reclamation.

“This project has the potential to provide us with an opportunity rather than a problem,” she said,

The trustees themselves demonstrated a similar range in their comments.

Heather Henry called for a formal stakeholder group and expressed concerns about Pitkin County’s process.

“I really feel like the fact that so many people showed up the other day and are here tonight is one of the things I’m most concerned about,” she said.

Ben Bohmfalk was more optimistic.

“There will be many more opportunities going forward,” he said. “I think there will be a lot less uncertainty when there’s a preferred alignment.”

Then there was Marty Silverstein’s pragmatic realism.

“The trail is going to be built because Pitkin County wants it,” he noted.

Moreover, noted Mayor Dan Richardson, most Carbondalians seem to support some form of trail. His personal inclination was to keep it almost exclusively in the Highway 133 corridor on the west side of the river.

“You put the house on the ugliest spot in the lot in order to preserve everything else,” he noted.

In the time allotted, the trustees weren’t able to come to any consensus about a comment. Richardson instructed each to craft language on specific issues like alignment, process, and eminent domain to consider at a future meeting.

For more information on the Crystal Trail or to comment, visit pitkinostprojects.com.

Nuts and bolts

The crowd cleared out for the second half of the meeting, which was focused on a budget review for police, public works and capital projects.

On the law enforcement side, the discussion mostly centered around staffing and associated costs.

“We try and do whatever we can to leverage money in our budget to do more for our citizens,” said Police Chief Gene Schilling.

Added Lieutenant Chris Wurtsmith, “We have lots of free opportunities for training, but the challenge is having staff to cover the shifts.”

Richardson voiced the board’s support of Public Works Director Kevin Schorzman’s budget from the start. Among the funds laid out for 2018 are $175,000 for general street maintenance and $5,000 for concrete street maintenance, which Schorzman characterized as sufficient. “When you look at the cost of complete replacement of all the roads in town, I don’t think that’s a realistic look at what we’re going to have to do long term and that’s a good thing,” he said. “One of the things we don’t use a lot of here is chemicals, and that’s really what does a lot of damage to concrete streets.”

He was less sure about $10,000 for trail maintenance, and particularly with the construction of brand new trails across current pedestrian gaps on the agenda as well. It would take around $15,000 to finish the sidewalk on Sixth Street between Main and Colorado, and up to $125,000 to improve pedestrian access along Fourth Street between downtown and the Town Hall.

Trustee Ben Bohmfalk expressed some concern that the latter hadn’t been discussed by the Bike and Ped Commission.

“This is the first I’ve heard of that project,” he said. “I’m surprised that we’re spending $125,000 on it.”

The issue was compounded by the presence of private vacant land next to both sections which might see development and thus sidewalk improvements on someone else’s dime, but according to Town Manager Jay Harrington, there are no pending proposals on either property. As for a potential trail along the section of Snowmass Drive outside of city limits, the budget sets aside $35,000 for Carbondale’s share.

Also on the table is the possibility of converting some tent sites at Gateway Park to accommodate recreational vehicles — a direct response to disproportionate demand with a $6,000 price tag. If all goes as planned, the town would also see improvements to park bathrooms and replace some picnic tables and trash containers.

Folks can review the whole proposed budget at www.carbondalegov.org.