Wildernest pathway project set for April start
WILDERNEST – Groundbreaking on the first phase of Wildernest’s planned three-mile, $4.5 million pedestrian walkway and drainage upgrade is set for next month. At least one Wildernest homeowner isn’t happy about the project, but Buffalo Mountain Metro District manager Gary Drescher said that man is among the minority.
“By and large, the response has been overwhelmingly favorable,” he said. “I can think of two instances where people came by the office with concerns about the project, who, after learning about it in more detail said it was a good idea and well thought out.”
While the safety of pedestrians along Ryan Gulch Road has worried residents for years, the June 1998 death of 22-year-old Erin Eikedahl raised those concerns to greater heights. The Wildernest woman was walking along Ryan Gulch Road when she was struck and killed by an allegedly drunken driver.
But it’s not just safety that brought the project to life. Drainage ditches along the road are in poor condition, and the project will serve the dual purpose of improving those and providing a walkway.
The district, which provides water, sewer and road maintenance to Wildernest, has enough money to complete the project, Drescher said.
During Saturday’s meeting, district officials will give area homeowners details about the construction process, traffic control and potential driveway closures.
But Wildernest homeowner Dan Burstein questions the need for such a large, high-dollar project – particularly as it’s proposed.
The removal of trees the construction will require is going to take a toll on the neighborhood’s aesthetics, Burstein believes. At 8 feet wide, the trail is too big, he said, and its construction in rights of way will shorten the length of some residents’ driveways. A narrower trail would not only reduce costs, but also lessen the impact to homeowners, Burstein said.
“There are a bunch of us who may file a class-action lawsuit to stop it,” he said. “Apparently, they (district representatives) seem to be deaf to every issue we’ve brought up.
“We’re not opposed to the trail. We just want to make sure it’s designed to provide the pedestrian safety they want, that it’s cost efficient and that it minimizes the amount of aesthetic damage and resulting property values.”
Because many of Wildernest’s homeowners aren’t full-time residents, Burstein said he worries they don’t know much about the project.
“The amount of people that are actually here to provide public input is pretty limited,” he said. “In that situation, they should be especially sensitive to making good decisions.”
Drescher admited the construction costs have increased. Last fall, the district estimated it would cost $3.5 million; now it’s up another $1 million. That increase stems from engineering issues that were unknown until recently, he said. Despite that, Drescher said the project’s cost has been carefully considered.
“The district would not be going ahead with this if there was any concern this would affect the financial viability of the district or its ability to provide water and sewer and road maintenance,” Drescher said.
This summer’s plans call for construction of 1.5 miles of the path, from upper Poplar Circle to the Lilypad Lakes trailhead at the top of Wildernest. Next summer, all but a section extending from the Wildernest Center to Silverthorne’s town limits should be finished. The last piece most likely will wrap up in 2005.
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