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Residents ask why trail realignment was made at Durango city councilor’s request

Parks and Recreation: Project lined up well with fire mitigation
Residents walk along Rae Trail on Friday on the east side of the Animas River downstream from Demon Bridge where Durango Parks and Recreation performed a trail realignment. The trail encroached on several residents’ properties, including Councilor Olivier Bosmans, who preferred the trail be rerouted off his property. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Residents who frequent Rae Trail downstream of the Demon Bridge in Durango are asking why realignment of the trail was performed in May at the request of Durango City Councilor Olivier Bosmans.

The trail encroached on Bosmans’ and other neighbors’ properties, and Bosmans preferred to have the trail moved rather than to adjust his property boundary, according to Durango Parks and Recreation.

Additionally, the second phase of fire mitigation first carried out one to two years ago is taking place in the same area of Rae Trail, and the two projects conveniently lined up.

When resident Robin Brodsky learned construction along the Rae Trail near the Animas River and Demon Bridge was spurred by a city councilor’s wish to realign the trail off his property, she grew suspicious.

Brodsky said she was walking her dog last month along Rae Trail, an old, well-traveled dirt footpath just south of Demon Bridge on the east side of the Animas River, as she often does, when she spotted a pile of rock, sand and crushed stone.

She stopped to speak with two construction workers who told her the trail crosses the property lines of several neighbors by about 5 feet. One of the neighbors is Councilor Bosmans.

Bosmans was the only property owner who wanted the trail realigned off his property, she said she was told.

“Is this really the best use of taxpayer money? How many thousands of dollars is this costing the city?” she said In a letter to The Durango Herald.

Durango resident Christian Stoddard said he heard the same thing from construction workers during one of his walks along Rae Trail.

Durango resident Robin Brodsky noticed retaining wall rocks lying on Rae Trail just downstream of the Demon Bridge on the east side of the Animas River last month. When she inquired what project, construction workers said the trail is being realigned because it crosses over a resident’s property. That resident is City Councilor Olivier Bosmans, which made Brodsky suspicious the city was prioritizing work on a councilor’s private property. (Courtesy of Robin Brodsky)

He said he was also told Rae Trail crosses into several neighbors’ private properties, and Bosmans was the only resident who preferred to realign the trail as opposed to leaving it as it lies.

“Apparently the only property owner that really put up any resistance was the councilman and requested that they relocate the trail off his property and kind of expedite that project ahead of other projects on their list for the trail season,” Stoddard said.

He said he was surprised and the project sounded like a misappropriation of funds because it appeared a project was advanced at a councilor’s request.

Bosmans

Bosmans did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Durango Natural Resources Manager Owen Tallmadge said the Rae Trail realignment was made at Bosmans request, but not because he is a city councilor, and it was convenient to complete the project because city crews were already working on fire mitigation work carried over from last summer.

The city had approached about five property owners, including Bosmans, about either relocating the Rae Trail or performing a boundary adjustment which would shift the property owners’ property lines. All of the property owners were comfortable with adjusting their property boundaries except for Bosmans, Tallmadge said.

“The trail was trespassing across private property and it happened to be coincidentally his property,” he said. “... That's kind of how we got to where the realignment became a thing.”

The silver of property is on a steep, heavily wooded hillside with limited applications for use, especially development.

Durango Parks and Recreation crews were nearly finished realigning the Rae Trail downstream of the Demon Bridge on the east side of the Animas River last week. The trail realignment stoked the interest of residents who frequent the trail after they learned the project came about after Councilor Olivier Bosmans said he wants the trail removed from his property. (Courtesy of Robin Brodsky)

With the site already having been surveyed to determine how boundary adjustments might work, and with property boundaries already marked up, it was a convenient time to execute the realignment, he added.

Additionally, he said, one or two summers ago the city had fire mitigation work performed in the same area because of Paradise Beach’s popularity as a party spot. The city’s concern was if someone built a bonfire near Paradise Beach, a resulting wildfire could climb the hillside into neighborhoods.

Wood chippers and other equipment attracted the neighbors’ attention when the first phase of fire mitigation was performed, and made them realize Rae Trail crosses their properties, he said.

In May, the city needed to stabilize a slope along the trail where fire crews previously widened the trail to fit their equipment.

“So we had planned on doing that work anyway,” Tallmadge said. “It just sort of was good timing with doing the reroute while we're in there, going to do the other work anyway.”

The projected cost of the realignment is about $7,500, accounting for an estimated $6,000 for labor and $1,500 for renting equipment, he said in an email Friday.

He said that is a typical cost for a project of similar size and scope.

“$7,500 for approximately 150-ft of stone wall and trail ($50/ft) would be a typical and more than reasonable cost. Doing the work 'in-house' allowed for us to complete a much more cost controlled and timely project than if we had put the work out to bid,” he said.

Crews still have more work to complete on Rae Trail unrelated to relocating the trail from private property.

That includes “drainage improvements, slope stabilization, vegetation pruning (trail corridor clearing), noxious weed removal and revegetation of some disturbed areas,” he said.

“We intend to contract with the Southwest Conservation Youth Corps to complete this work,” Tallmadge said. “Their estimate is for $10,000. We may supply some incidental materials and staff support and of course staff oversight.”

Neither Brodsky nor Stoddard immediately responded to requests for additional comment after the Herald received an explanation from the city.

On Tuesday, the city of Durango published a video to its Facebook page briefly describing some of the work performed on Rae Trail.

A city employee in the video says the work included a rock retaining wall and naturalization of the ground where the old trail route lied. Wild rose, serviceberry and alder saplings were pointed out along the trail.

cburney@durangoherald.com

The finishing touches were being made on a realignment of Rae Trail on the east side of the Animas River near Demon Bridge this week. The project was undertaken by Durango Parks and Recreation after several residents realized the trail cuts across their private properties. All of the residents but one, Councilor Olivier Bosmans, were comfortable with adjusting their property boundaries. Bosmans preferred to have the trail realigned, according to Parks and Recreation staff. (Courtesy of Robin Brodsky)
Durango Parks and Recreation performed a trail realignment on Rae Trail because the trail encroached on several residents’ properties, including Councilor Olivier Bosmans, who preferred the trail be rerouted off his property. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)


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