Trying to do the responsible thing…
The 1% For Open Space board wants to get an appraisal of a potential trail easement up Baxter Gulch before committing to a purchase of that easement. The board met Tuesday night and did not vote on whether or not to spend money for the easement on Lot 19 in the Trapper’s Crossing at Wildcat subdivision.
“We are exploring every question that is being asked and trying to do the most responsible thing. The board felt that included getting an appraisal on the trail,” explained 1% executive director Molly Murfee. “That is taking some time. We are not going into this blindly.”
The 1% organization was asked to purchase the easement that would essentially make the current trail easement in the area much easier. That board is primarily an open space funding organization that gets its money from a voluntary one-percent contribution from participating local businesses and customers of those businesses. Negotiated by local attorney Jim Starr, the owner of the property is asking approximately $50,000 for the easement. Starr said he would throw in $5,000 that is tied up in the project. The 1% board is being asked to contribute $46,000. Murfee estimated that an appraisal would cost between $5,000 and $8,000.
“We want to get this done as fast as possible,” Murfee said. “The deal is set to close August 17 so we will try and expedite this quickly. Doing the appraisal was a tough decision for the board but they felt there were enough questions about the project that they wanted some answers.”
Members of the Crested Butte Land Trust raised questions last week about the project. CBLT President Keith Bauer questioned whether paying that much money for a trail easement gave the public enough “bang for the buck.” Bauer also said he felt the public hadn’t had ample time to evaluate the proposal.
The current easement in the area would require two steep climbs and descents and in fact it would include a section of trail that could have up to 23 switchbacks. Trails experts have said the cost of building that section of trail could be up to $50,000 and require constant maintenance.
“This is without a doubt the most scrutinized project 1% has ever evaluated,” said Murfee. “We’ve had people come to us with strong support and with strong concerns. All of us have been doing our due diligence and gathering as much information as possible. We are doing everything in our power to do the most financially responsible thing with the money the participating businesses and their clients have entrusted us with.”
Murfee said one question the board is considering is whether or not people would use it. “We are looking at the public value of a trail on Whetstone. That’s not an easy hike or bike for anyone,” she said. “We are looking at whether this is a fair price. We are looking at the Land Trust’s concern about this setting a precedent for paying for trails.”
Once the 1% board is comfortable with the answers to those questions, they will make a decision on whether or not to fund the $46,000 for the easement. That should happen sometime in August.