Piney Point Trail project stalled following neighborhood objections

Some residents of Piney Acres don’t want to see a trail because of stipulations in a restrictive covenant

An overview of the Dillon Valley neighborhood is pictured on Nov. 19, 2020. To increase walkability, Summit County officials have proposed building a trail that would connect the areas of the neighborhood. However, some residents are against the trail due to stipulations in a restrictive land covenant. (Liz Copan / Studio Copan)

The Dillon Valley neighborhood is a hot spot for safety concerns, including speeding and a lack of safe areas for pedestrians. During a Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting in May, county officials identified measures that will make the area safer, one of which included a trail that would connect the area from Little Beaver Trail to Piney Acres Circle and through some of the nearby properties.

But as Piney Acre residents learned of this potential trail, they began to grow concerned. The project would have cut through three parcels of land known as Piney Point. These parcels were originally dedicated to the Continental Divide Land Trust by a Piney Acre resident in the early 2000s, according to Jason Kemper, who also lives in the area.

According to Kemper, this resident dedicated the land with the intention of keeping it in its natural state.

“She did so with the intention of having them be preserved in perpetuity and the Continental Divide Land Trust recorded a restrictive covenant with that exact language — to be preserved in their natural state in perpetuity,” Kemper said. “I think any form of development that opens up the parcels of Piney Point to trails or other improvements would degrade that.”

Kemper said he and other residents became concerned that Summit County — which now owns the land after the land trust and Colorado Open Lands merged in 2019 — is disregarding the previous landowner’s wishes.

“I think the optics of this are really not good,” Kemper said. “(They’re) kind of picking on a widower, disrespecting her intentions and wishes to do something good, (which was) to donate land and have it be preserved as natural open space.”

The language in the covenant does state that the former landowner “desires to keep the property in its present natural condition in perpetuity.” The document also states that the goals are to preserve the natural beauty of the property and maintain its natural present condition.

The document goes on to say that “the lots may not contain any building improvements except such fences, walls, driveways, and parking areas as may be approved in writing by the owners of the land” as long as it makes sense with the original purpose of the land. The document also states that “no structures or buildings of any character nor any mobile home … shall be placed on or used within the property.”

Brian Lorch, Summit County’s Open Space and Trails Director, said the county attorney has reviewed the document and sees no reason why a trail cannot be built on the property. However, due to the level of concern from residents, the project has been put on hold and Lorch said there will be a lengthier public process to discuss its future plans.

Lorch noted that this trail was identified as a priority in the walkability master plan for Dillon and that he felt the county already had an extensive process to collect feedback. Now, he and his team will go back to the drawing board.

“I think it’s important to highlight that there really has been a pretty robust public process here and although we often get called out for not having a public processes, or people may have that view, I really feel like this one was aired as much as we could and at this point, we’re going to spend more time making sure people feel as comfortable as possible with it before we take any further action,” Lorch said.

Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue, who also lives in Dillon Valley, had previously expressed accessibility concerns with the trail. As for keeping the land in its natural state, Pogue noted this is an issue that spreads across the county and she wants the community to work together to ensure all needs are met.

“We are all struggling with the fact that Summit County has become so much busier so I think a lot of neighborhoods are just trying to create some barriers around that urban growth. … I think we all need to think about some of these bigger challenges, but also keep in mind that we are one community at the end of the day,” Pogue said. “If we don’t have safety for some residents of the neighborhood, how do we create some value and consensus that allows us to acknowledge everybody’s needs?”

In the meantime, Piney Acre residents are satisfied that the project has been set aside for now.

“(In) my personal beliefs, I hold conservation and preservation very dearly and I think an erosion of those intentions (has) … a long-term detriment to society,” Kemper said.

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