Improvements to the facilities at Cozy Point Ranch and the Maroon Creek trail are nearing completion, but are still a few years away from completion.
Aspen City Council visited the sites on Monday instead of a formal business meeting so council members could see what is currently in place and hear updates on upcoming capital projects, and in turn provide feedback on prioritization. The site visits were also an opportunity for council members to ask questions and learn from city staff about the projects.
“It’s a precursor to the budget discussions to come,” said Matt Kuhn, director of parks and open spaces. “We wanted to take this opportunity to provide some context on what is on offer over the next five years as it relates to Cozy Point Ranch facilities and answer any questions they have in person.”
According to a memo from Open Space and Natural Resources Manager John Speiss. City staff are also planning a number of upcoming projects that will be discussed during budget working sessions later this year, including improvements to the boarding school and a possible replacement of the ride.
The city also hopes to improve employee housing on the ranch, of which there are currently four units on site, according to the memo. Kuhn said most units need repairs and replacements. While the city doesn’t expect to be able to replace the units in the near future, Kuhn said staff hope to hear advice from councilors on the timing, scope and scale of the project.
“We would really like to replace these existing units with a better, more long-term focused housing solution,” Kuhn said. “It’s really critical that we have people on site who can handle the ranch functionality 24/7.”
Additionally, parks staff hope to collaborate with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails next year on a wildlife crossing feasibility study in the Cozy Point Ranch area. Kuhn said that to his knowledge wildlife crossing studies usually take a little time, and he expects the process of creating a wildlife crossing to take several years – the feasibility study will help determine if it is the right thing to do in the Region. The city plans to survey city-owned parcels of land on both sides of Highway 82 near Brush Creek Road, where wildlife migration and movement is common.
“We’ve all seen the aftermath of deer and elk trying to cross that corridor,” Kuhn said. “We are in a unique position, having properties on both sides of the highway there.”
According to the memo, staff hope to complete the grading and drainage project, begin planning and design for ride improvements, and begin the wildlife crossing feasibility study in 2023. The improvement and Housing restoration in Brush Creek and Cougar Creek is last on the schedule and is expected to begin in 2027. City council members were asked Monday to provide more guidance on the timeline.
The Cozy Point Ranch projects are expected to make up a significant portion of the Parks Department’s capital projects budget over the next five years, according to the memo. Staff expect the volatility of unscheduled maintenance tasks to be reduced, but Speiss wrote that “it should be noted that these projects are intended to provide a suite of stable, safe and acceptable facilities to continue the various operations at Cozy Point Ranch for the foreseeable future. “Projects should also have a positive impact on the environment.
City Council also visited the Maroon Creek Trail site, where the city plans to install a hard-surface multi-use trail between the Highway 82 roundabout and the Aspen Recreation Center. The current trail is a mix of trail, sidewalk, and pavement, according to a separate memo from Speiss, and has created concerns about safety and snow-free access. The project would aim to provide a safe, year-round route between the school campus and the roundabout, according to the memo.
“The goal is to get a more direct connection that doesn’t go through [school] campus and makes that connection to the Highlands Trail,” Kuhn said.
The project is currently in the schematic design phase, which is estimated to cost $122,530 from the 2021 budget. An additional $150,000 is allocated to the 2022 budget for the remainder of a project study and construction documents, according to the memo. The total project cost is estimated at $3,964,704 – staff have proposed a 2023 budget of $4 million for construction.