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The trail of two years planning (and many more to go)

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The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails team has finalized their draft plan for the proposed Carbondale to Crested Butte trail; they are set to present and discuss it with the Pitkin County commissioners on Nov. 7.

The meeting will start at 1 p.m. at the Third Street Center, with the Open Space and Trails Board (OST) kicking it off by outlining the plan and welcoming public comments. OST will then present a recommendation to county commissioners, who will in turn consider the recommendation, discuss possible revisions and finally decide whether or not to give it their stamp of approval.

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The trail’s starting point will begin with the 8.5-mile Crystal Valley stretch in Carbondale, and continue south 13 miles through Redstone and up to the top of McClure Pass. Moving along into the Muddy Creek drainage, it will descend the southern side of the pass toward Kebler Pass Road, where it will climb to the top of Kebler Pass, cross into the Coal Creek drainage and descend again, heading east toward Crested Butte.

The goal for this 83-mile route is to improve safety for both non-motorized trail users, as well as motorized Highway 133 and Kebler Pass travelers, while also providing opportunities for recreation.

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“The plan has also significantly expanded to not only protect wildlife, but to actually enhance wildlife habitat up the Crystal River,” says Gary Tennenbaum, Director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. “It’s because of this planning process that we’re going to do more for wildlife than what would’ve been done before this process started.”

If approved, a second reading and public hearing will be scheduled for Dec. 5.

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Tennenbaum notes that phase one is the only measure that truly gets approved if the commissioners accept this plan as written.

“With phase one, we go from Redstone to the top of McClure Pass. If that gets approved, it will take some time to construct and get through the NEPA and CDOT review processes. Then, we would go back to the County Commissioners and the Open Space Board and see which phase they would like to go with next,” he says.

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“It’s is really a vision statement for the future that will take probably decades to complete,” he adds.

For Carbondale, this trail provides a link to Redstone that doesn’t require driving. And vice versa for people who live up in the Crystal Valley and want to bike to Carbondale. Tennenbaum predicts it could help businesses in both towns as well, given the projected increase in rider traffic.

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