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(photo: Eric Proano)

This summer, members of the Walton family will start construction on 4.5 miles of trail on their land near Redstone, Colorado, which will be open for public use when they debut in 2020.

According to the Post Independent, Pitkin County commissioners approved the Walton’s Crystal Basin Holdings LLC request to build a small trail network designed for mountain bikes, but also open to foot traffic.

The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board of directors unanimously voted in April to recommend the county commissioners accept an easement for the trail that will be held by the county. The easement is a formality to ensure that the network is open to the public for free and long-term use.

The Waltons aren’t strangers to mountain bike trail development, as the Walton Family Foundation has pumped millions of dollars into Northwest Arkansas trail building efforts around Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville.

Sam and Ben Walton own 221 acres up Coal Basin Road, near Redstone. The families’ LLC, Crystal Basin Holdings, will build and manage the trails. Crystal Basin’s application was supposedly a rare case, in which private land is opened for public use. Usually, it is Pitkin County that pushes for a trail easement, or for the right to public use.

The application described its intent for use to “provide recreation and access to the surroundings of the Coal Creek and Dutch Creek forested areas on the private property for the general public,” with a goal of teaching skills and responsible land stewardship.

The Waltons plan to have trails for all ability levels, from beginner to expert, and will include stream-side singletrack and beginner-friendly downhill flow trails.

Ahead of the approval, Crystal Basin Holdings spoke with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District to mitigate concerns of illegal trails off of the new trails. The ranger district reported to the county that they’ve seen a growth in illegal trails that appear to be associated with mountain biking on National Forest land across the district and in wilderness areas. Crystal Basin has pledged proactive cooperation with signage and education to prevent illegal trail building surrounding the new trails.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has also seen an increase in illegal trails, which sparked concerns about interference with wildlife in the area. The Waltons’ property seems to work with wildlife in the area, as steep slopes near Dutch Creek, a creek near the property, would supposedly prevent disturbance to elk calving.

If Crystal Basin Holdings detects that new illegal trails stem from their property and into the surrounding national forest, they say that they’ll close the unauthorized trails and reclaim them. By opening the new and sanctioned trail network, Crystal Basin believes that they’ll be better able than the Forest Service to monitor the area for illegal trails.

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