A boon for cycling and safety
The proposed Crested Butte to Crested Butte South Trail, a recreational trail that has been the subject of discussion for over a decade, begins to develop after Gunnison County applied to Great Outdoors Colorado for a grant of planning in December. The multimodal route could dramatically change the way residents and visitors move around the North Valley, keeping cyclists safe and off the highway.
Although the highway. 135 has a wider shoulder, demand for a road between Crested Butte and Crested Butte South continued to increase. As the corridor becomes busier each summer, road biking has become increasingly dangerous along the highway, limiting the number of cyclists willing to make the trip.
Joe Enenbach, a Gunnison resident and wildlife photographer, cycles to Almont, and occasionally to Crested Butte, three to four times a week during the summer.
“Unless you go slowly enough or on a bike,” wildlife can be difficult to spot, Enenbach said. Biking is “a great opportunity to see wildlife and get some exercise… but people are only zooming in on that.”
“A lot of times people turn the wheel a bit and get around me, but sometimes they don’t,” he said. “I say I feel reasonably safe. But you don’t know who’s in that car.
As recreational traffic increases, a link between Crested Butte and Crested Butte South is “even more important now,” said Dan Crean, owner of Double Shot Cyclery in Gunnison.
“For us to go up to Crested Butte and be able to come down from the shoulder and take a bike path would be amazing,” Crean said. “It’s pretty scary, especially when you start walking into areas where cell phone coverage starts to build up and people start grabbing their phones while they are driving. ”
Driving on the road changed for Crean when his longtime friend and local Dale Thomas was killed in a crash on the freeway. 135 in 2015.
“When that happened it definitely changed the way I rode my bike and where I rode my bike,” Crean said. “Thinking that the car behind you could turn into you at any time is definitely a little annoying going up there. It’s a good shoulder all the way up, but you’re still riding the same road as the vehicles.
In addition to ensuring the safety of trail users, the path will also be “perfect terrain” for e-bikes, said Crean, which is growing in popularity.
People continue to adopt e-bikes for getting around, said Matt Feier, who has spent many years cycling from his home in Crested Butte South to the resort.
“I’m not necessarily advocating that everyone should be riding an e-bike everywhere for everything, we’ve got a great mountain biking community… but for commuting they’re awesome,” Feier said.
Examining the potential of the path to both encourage cycling and create a safer route, Feier said he believed “people will be inclined to ride bikes” and let their “kids go to town.” .
The trail, which would be flatter than the Crested Butte to Mt. Crested Butte Recreational Trail, would also provide a recreational opportunity for summer visitors, said Dave Ochs, director of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA).
“Our path is actually quite difficult because it’s a hill,” Ochs said. Providing visitors with a “flatter and really more beginner experience, whether it’s a paved or gravel path, is a great opportunity.”
If the path is built within the Colorado Department of Transportation right-of-way, the trail will likely fall near the freeway. Despite the potential obstacles surrounding the project, including ditch issues and securing easements on private property, Ochs said CBMBA was delighted to see the planning process begin.
“If he identifies alternative routes that would take him further away from the highway, we would like that to be the case,” Ochs said. “But if the highway is the only alternative, then obviously the road is better than nothing.”
“It’s just great to see it coming,” he said.
Feier, who has also spent time on the Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee, as well as the Board of Directors of the Crested Butte South Property Owners Association (POA), said his “biggest effort” was to complete this section.
“But we really need a recreation path from Crested Butte to Gunnison,” Feier said. “In my mind, this is the first phase. You must be able to move around without a vehicle or taking the bus. It seems to be an achievable thing. They do it in other places.
For example, the Rio Grande Trail, a 42 mile multi-use trail, runs from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and is completely separated from traffic except at intersections.
Marty Thoma, mechanic at Basalt Bike and Ski, said the trail offers many benefits for local users and tourists alike.
“Local businesses are getting a lot more business, I would say a lot of it because of the trail here,” Thoma said. “Lots of people rent bikes from the bike shops along the way, and the restaurants and bars are doing business. It certainly benefits the community.
Dom Eymere, a former POA manager at Crested Butte South, has been involved with the project since 2008, as the trail slowly moved up the priority list in the valley. He said the path was a good starting point “to set the tone for future trail construction”.
“I think we would get younger cyclists, older cyclists, recreational cyclists, mountain bikers looking to access other trails without having to get in their cars to go seven miles. We just love to get on your bike and go for miles and miles. “
(Bella Biondini can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or [email protected])