Paradise Park neighbors voice concerns with increasing impacts

“The solution? Don’t do it”

[  by Mark Reaman  ]

Residents of Crested Butte’s Paradise Park subdivision made it clear at a meeting last week that they feel overwhelmed by changes coming to their neighborhood. A proposal to relocate the primary access point to Tony’s Trail and the Upper Loop to their area is just the latest example.

Between dealing with living near a major river access put-in by the Slate, residing next to the sewer plant with an RV dump and composting plant, expecting a tall cell tower to be put in the neighborhood and seeing plans for a snowcat barn and new bike trails, the residents told Crested Butte town staff that enough is enough.

In a meeting that lasted more than an hour on October 21, Crested Butte community development director Troy Russ took feedback about what the approximately 25 residents felt were the best elements of the neighborhood, what their biggest concerns were and what the best possible solutions might be.

The meeting was precipitated by a proposal to town by the owners of the 40-acre parcel east of Crested Butte. Wynn and Ryan Martens are proposing to shift bike and pedestrian access through the parcel from the main McCormick Ranch Road that joins Elk Avenue and move it to the north end of the property by the Rec Path Bridge. The idea is to utilize an old roadbed by the Slate River to hook up to the McCormick Ranch Bridge and back to the road that eventually leads to Tony’s Trail.

That would in essence take all the foot and bike traffic from the Elk Avenue access point and concentrate it to the Paradise Park neighborhood.

The Martens have said their goal is to improve the wetlands on the property while protecting nesting birds and removing heavy human traffic from the center of the property. This, they say, will help protect the birds. The Martens did not attend the neighborhood meeting.

Russ said recent survey counts this summer and fall revealed that about 100 to 150 people per weekend day used the area by the Rec Path Bridge. And recent traffic counts in October showed about 150 people (half bicyclists/half pedestrians) per day used the main McCormick Ranch road that leads to Tony’s Trail.

“Things are different now from 20 years ago,” said Russ. “This neighborhood is much more built out. No one even thought of SUPs 20 years ago. Is there an opportunity to rethink the east side of town to better serve the community?”

Russ told the neighbors that after meeting with the Martens several times he believed they were well intentioned with the goal to improve the wetlands and protect nesting birds. “But a lot of concerns have been brought up with the proposal. People want to know the proof that people using the current road impacts the birds. People want to know the ultimate impacts to this neighborhood. What are the impacts to the wetlands and wildlife by the river next to the neighborhood?”

“We all appreciate being able to live in town in this neighborhood,” said resident Kevin “Pinball” Emery. “We knew that we signed up for a sewer plant and a bus barn. But now we’ve turned into having a mulch [compost] factory, with a big cell tower. People flock to the river. There’s a proposed skicat barn, public bathrooms and now a new bike trail. But there’s no proposal for a parking area. The problem is, there isn’t infrastructure to handle all this.”

“And the town needs all your help to identify the concerns and the solutions to your concerns,” said Russ.

Town planner Mel Yemma said the town is aware that vehicle traffic is a big concern. She said the numbers and the speeding have all been pointed out along with the SUP use and people leaving trash in the neighborhood.

The neighbors broke into two groups to write lists of concerns and potential solutions. The top three solutions tallied by the town were:

—Reject the proposal/don’t put in the new trail at the Rec Path.

—Bring the Aperture River put-in online and gear people to put-in on the river there.

—-Do more for traffic calming/parking management solutions in the neighborhood.

“Our group suggested keeping the easement access the same. It seems to work,” said Kat Carpenter.

“The solution? Don’t do it,” echoed the other group’s Chelsea Dalporto-McDowell. “Find a balance and share the burden. The neighborhood is dense with residents and congested in the summer with recreationists.”

“All the people here are very thankful to be able to live here,” added resident Dave Bumgarner. “But once we allow a change like this it can steamroll.”

“It could absolutely be a slippery slope and that is a concern of the town staff,” said Russ.

“I love this working class neighborhood,” said Bill Quiggle. “I love what we have here and appreciate being able to be here. But it feels like we are getting all these things put over here because we’re the ‘low rent’ neighborhood. I don’t feel we are that. We have something special here. Let us be a neighborhood and not just a place with a tourist attraction.”

“It feels like things are falling apart all around us,” said Emery. “We need to stick together and keep it the way we want it and not what people want to make it. They need to build with us, not around us.”

Crested Butte town manager Dara MacDonald is also a resident of the neighborhood. “This isn’t just happening here,” she told the neighbors. “It is happening by Peanut Lake Road, in the backcountry, on all the public lands. It is happening everywhere in town and throughout the valley. The town is beginning an update to its long-term plan next year and we need you all to participate so we know where the community wants to go. We need to know the priorities of the people who live here.”

Bumgarner asked if the council feared consequences of not going along with the easement shift proposal from the Martens. Russ said that while the Martens had threatened to close the trails for a time each year, the town attorney did not believe that was legal. “We will defend whatever position the council tells us to defend,” he said.

“And the council is there for us, the people who live here,” said Quiggle.

Opposition leader Jillian Liebl reminded the neighbors that the council listens to constituents. “Numbers talk and we have our voice,” she said. “So sign the petition and make your view known.”

“The best advocate for the neighborhood is you,” added Russ. “So stay active and stay involved.”

Two more public meetings are scheduled to be held with the town staff. The first is November 4 at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom with a second on-site meeting scheduled for November 5 at noon. The council is expected to look at the issue at their first meeting in December.

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