Big Plans for New Aspen Trail and Cozy Point Ranch Upgrades

John Spiess, center, manager of open spaces and natural resources for the City of Aspen, leads a discussion on the Maroon Creek Trail with members of city council Monday, July 25, 2022, near the Aspen Recreation Center. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen City Council spent a few hours on Monday doing site visits to Cozy Point Ranch and the location of a new trail along the west side of Maroon Creek Road as a precursor to what will be a request millions of dollars for future capital projects.

As the council begins considering the 2023 budget and city officials present their work plans in the coming months, the Parks and Open Spaces Department will seek $9 million in capital improvements, according to Matt Kuhn, department director.

“2023 is shaping up to be a great year,” he said.

In a typical year, the department spends between $3 million and $5 million on capital projects.

But with the trail hovering around $3 million and needed improvements to operations at Cozy Point, as well as unrelated parks and open space projects, spending will be higher next year, if the council is d ‘OK.

This year, the Parks and Open Spaces Department is expected to generate $15 million in revenue, which comes primarily from sales taxes.

Kuhn said the department can afford the projects planned for 2023 because of savings over the past two years when less was done due to the pandemic.

“That conservative budgeting has paid off, so we have enough money to tackle those projects,” he said.

The largest is the new Maroon Creek Multi-Use Trail which will extend approximately 1 mile from the Highway 82 roundabout to the Aspen Recreation Center on the west side of the road.

Maroon Creek is a heavily used corridor for cyclists to the Maroon Bells that currently pass through the Aspen School District campus from the trail system on the east side of the road that ends at the college parking lot.

The current connection between the Highway 82 roundabout and the ARC is a mix of trail, sidewalk and roadway, according to John Spiess, the city’s greenspace and natural resources manager.

Although functional, the connection lacks clarity and does not provide a year-round snow-free route, he noted.

This adds to concerns about school safety and the rapid adoption of e-bikes, which has made the creation of a more clearly defined multi-modal trail in the corridor more urgent.

John Spiess, Manager of Open Spaces and Natural Resources for the City of Aspen, leads a discussion on the Maroon Creek Trail with members of City Council Monday, July 25, 2022, near the Aspen Recreation Center. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“There are more and more users on this side of the trail,” Spiess said. “It’s almost like it’s a to-do list for people to travel down this hallway.”

City staff worked with consultant OTAK to review potential alignments for a new 10-foot or 12-foot wide hard-surface multi-use pathway across Maroon Creek Road.

The schematic alignment taking shape is generally within 30 feet of the road for the entire alignment, with some of the segments directly adjacent to the street, according to Spiess.

Kuhn said city staff will present the project to the county’s parks and open space board next week to pursue a possible partnership.

If approved by council, construction is expected to begin next summer.

Just over $1 million is slated for Cozy Point in 2023, with several projects planned for the next five years.

The biggest ticket slated for next summer on the 168-acre city-owned property is large-scale grading, fencing and utility infrastructure.

The project, which has been ongoing since 2021, aims to address significant drainage and security issues on the ranch due to a lack of infrastructure.

The second phase of the project will also relocate the leech fields and improve the horse paddock with new fencing and improved footings.

Architectural and permitting work for the ride’s redesign will cost $75,000 next year, with an expected demand of $500,000 in 2024 for roof replacement and energy-saving upgrades to the ride.

The arena is a 25,000 square foot steel frame structure. A visual inspection of the building indicated that the interior and exterior needed to be replaced or renovated, according to Spiess.

Pursuing a feasibility study for a wildlife corridor near Cozy Point will cost $50,000, according to Spiess.

He and Kuhn said the city is in a unique position to participate since the city government owns properties on both sides of Highway 82 in areas of known wildlife migration and movement.

After initial conversations with Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the city, in partnership with the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, a feasibility study will take place in 2023.

John Spiess, center, the City of Aspen’s manager of open spaces and natural resources, and Matt Kuhn, right, the director of parks and open spaces, lead a discussion on the Maroon Creek Trail with members of the City Council on Monday, July 25, 2022, near the Aspen Recreation Center. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Just over $1 million is planned for 2024 and 2025 to deal with the boarding school on the property known as Butler Barn.

Although the barn has seen some upgrades in recent years to improve security, the original structure was designed as a private equestrian facility and does not fully meet the needs as a current public building, according to Spiess.

In a recent study by an architect, it was suggested that the building will need to be replaced in the short term due to wear and tear from operation, as well as the age of the building.

The largest expense for Cozy Point Ranch is estimated to be $4 million for new housing, but will not occur until 2027.

Cozy Point Ranch has four permanent living units on site, which are used for staff and their families at the equestrian operation, Cozy Point LLC.

There are two temporary units on site that house four employees of the Farm Collaborative, which is a city tenant.

In 2019 architectural firm Rowland and Broughton drew up a preliminary housing masterplan for the quad on the property.

The plan was to replace the two existing self-contained housing units, add three more for ranch employee housing, and turn the third abode into a dormitory.

The city bought the ranch in 1994 and now has two tenants – the public equestrian operation and a farm and garden learning center – with wildlife habitat areas, a public archery range and historic buildings and activities agriculture, according to Spiess and Kuhn.

It is considered an authentic working landscape located at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road and serves as the gateway to Aspen and Snowmass.

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