Wildernest asks county for equity
SUMMIT COUNTY – The special district that maintains Wildernest’s roadways is asking the county to pay $115,000 for the work and is proposing an estimated $3.5 million paved pathway from Silverthorne to two popular trailheads at the top of the neighborhood.
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) took both requests under advisement and promised an evaluation.
Gary Drescher, manager of the Buffalo Mountain Metropolitan District, told the BOCC Monday the $115,000 infusion would put Wildernest road maintenance on par with the average $17,187 per-mile spent elsewhere in the county.
He said the district would continue to do the roadwork, which includes snowplowing.
Currently, the county gives the district $20,000 a year in services and materials for the 6.7-mile road system. District taxpayers pay for work above that figure.
“Our position is that our taxpayers should be treated at least as well as other taxpayers in Summit County,” Drescher said.
He said more full-timers live in Wildernest, which he called “the largest collection of affordable housing in Summit County in a relatively small area.”
Drescher’s request touched a nerve that aches in other unincorporated, built-up areas where roadwork funding is viewed as inequitable. Copper Mountain residents long have complained they have not received fair value for taxes paid. Last winter, the county took full control of road maintenance from the resort’s metropolitan district. The district, however, contributes to labor and machinery costs.
BOCC chair Tom Long advocated a formula in which each neighborhood would be treated equally rather than each individually cutting a deal.
“We need some standard that applies to everybody, whether it be Copper, Keystone or Wildernest,” Long said.
In each instance, special districts have taken on roadwork deemed necessary beyond the county’s standard for rural roads. In Wildernest’s case, constant snowplowing of its steep road is mandatory for safety and traffic flow.
Tony Snyder, a district board member and half owner of Wildernest Property Management, said any formula assigned to road funding should consider whether a road serves a few houses or many such as the approximate 2,300 units in Wildernest.
He also said the elevation and traffic on the roads are two other critical factors. Paved pathway
On the proposed pathway, Drescher said, public safety is the paramount driving force to build a 3.5-mile, 8-foot-wide asphalt surface from Silverthorne to the Forest Service’s Buffalo Cabin and Lilly Pad Lake trailheads. The pathway would be separated from the road by a 10-foot-wide drainage ditch.
According to Drescher, the pathway is needed to help keep schoolchildren safe while getting on and off school buses – likewise for those using the Summit Stage. He also said it takes pressure off the crowded trailhead parking lots.
Much of the estimated cost of the pathway is wrapped up in drainage work and utility-line relocations, he said. The pathway would run along the south side of Ryan Gulch Road.
County Open Space and Trails director Todd Robertson said $87,000 exists in a special fund that could be used on the project. He said state trails and Great Outdoors Colorado grants might be possible, but likely would not touch the full price tag.
Long said the pathway work might be melded with requirements to improve drainage in Wildernest to meet water quality standards. He also suggested special district taxpayers bond the project.
Drescher said that might be possible if the county antes up more money for road maintenance, allowing tax dollars to be freed for debt payment.
Commissioner Bill Wallace said the proposed Swan Mountain bike path, estimated to cost about $6 million, is a greater priority over a Wildernest pathway. Drescher said public safety should take precedence over recreational needs.
Jim Pokrandt can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or e-mail him at email@example.com
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