Use fees in the future?
By Mark Reaman
The Gunsight Bridge over the Slate River by the Lower Loop trails is on track to be replaced next year and the Crested Butte Land Trust is hoping the town of Crested Butte will help fund the project.
The CBLT came to the council on Monday, July 24 to request $20,000 that would be used as part of a matching grant for the $250,000 project. The CBLT owns the property with the bridge, while the town holds the conservation easement.
In a presentation to the council, land trust executive director Noel Durant and CBLT stewardship director Hedda Peterson explained the need for the replacement.
The bridge was shut down temporarily this spring when high water in the Slate washed away part of the abutment on the north side of the bridge. The five sets of four piers that support the bridge right now collect debris and become clogged during high flow. That blockage negatively impacts the river hydraulics and can increase flood risks. While there has been some decking replacement in recent years, the original structure has not been updated since the 1880s.
The current 80-foot-long bridge would be replaced and realigned by a 100-foot suspension bridge. It will be five feet wide. That should better accommodate hand-cycles but will not be open to motorized use. Some habitat restoration work would be part of the plan as well.
“We are approaching the council with a request for stewardship funding,” explained Peterson. “The town has been great partners but this is a little bit unusual.”
“It is safe to say we will have more stewardship requests in the coming years,” added Durant.
Mayor Glenn Michel said the $250,000 price tag felt pretty inexpensive for a bridge project. Durant said the CBLT was able to find efficiencies with the public-private partnership. He said the land trust would be approaching other stakeholders for funding support as well.
Michel said one issue to consider was that the project could not be funded by the council through open space money, so the money would have to come out of the general fund. “A lot of folks come to us to help with projects outside our jurisdiction,” Michel said. “This is a great project and we all love the Gunsight Bridge but we have to think about the other worthy projects that will come in front of us.”
Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman said the council would have to consider it as part of the 2018 capital budget in terms of priorities for the five-year capital plan.
“The places close to town are definitely held to higher standards of protection,” noted Peterson.
“The land trust feels this is worth pursuing in partnership with the town,” said Durant.
“No one is debating the validity or need of the project for the community,” said Michel. “The town just needs to be aware of the bigger picture.”
“So if it is part of the budget, this funding would come from sales tax right now,” said councilman Chris Ladoulis. “Is that the right way to do it? Ultimately, in the future, use fees will probably have to be discussed. Those that use the amenities may have to pay a greater portion of upkeep in the future.”
The council members agreed to have the request put into the 2018 budget so they can further discuss the funding during the budget process this fall.
A site visit to the bridge will be conducted August 16.