Fight to Save Aspen’s Beloved Verena Mallory Trail Continues
On August 30, 2015, Garfield & Hecht, P.C., filed a lawsuit on behalf of a nonprofit organization known as the Friends of Verena Mallory Trail Association, Inc. to save the beloved Verena Mallory Trail from closure. Long-time Aspen resident and philanthropist Frederick “Fritz” Benedict commissioned the construction of the Verena Mallory Trail in 1991, and locals and visitors alike have been enjoying the Trail ever since. Aspen Valley Land Trust—the current owner of the property on which the Trail is located—announced in 2014 that it intended to close and reclaim the Trail due to AVLT’s concern that language in the conveyance deed prohibits the existence and use of the Trail. The City of Aspen and Pitkin County explored potential solutions to keep the Trail open, but those entities’ discussions with AVLT ended unsuccessfully in the summer of 2015.
Instead of filing an answer to Friends’ original Complaint, AVLT filed a Motion to Dismiss Friends’ lawsuit altogether. Under procedural rules, there could be no progress or activity in the case until the Pitkin County District Court ruled on AVLT’s motion. On August 11, 2017, the Court issued an order dismissing one of Friends’ claims and allowing Friends to proceed on its other claims, provided that Friends amend its Complaint to allege additional facts related to its surviving causes of action. The Court accepted Friends’ Amended Complaint and supporting documentation on September 14, 2017. Among the documents filed with Friends’ Amended Complaint were affidavits from Howie Mallory, the father of Verena Mallory, the Trail’s namesake; Art Daily, the attorney for the Benedicts and the lawyer who drafted the deed conveying the subject property to AVLT; and Fritz’s son, Nicolas Benedict, who helped his father build the Trail and other publicly accessible trails throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. Mallory, Daily, and Benedict all attested to the fact that Fritz and his wife, Fabienne, loved the Trail and intended that members of the public be able to use and enjoy the Trail to this day. With AVLT having filed its Answer the Amended Complaint, the case will continue to move forward for a determination on its merits unless the parties can reach a settlement.
Local news outlets have published several articles about the Trail and Friends’ lawsuit. Links to some of those articles are below. Additional information about the Trail can also be found on the Verena Mallory Trail Facebook page.
To find out more about this case, provide your stories and insights about the Trail, or to support Friends of Verena Mallory Trail, please contact Chris Bryan (moc.t1512998373hcehd1512998373leifr1512998373ag@na1512998373yrbc1512998373) or Haley Carmer (moc.t1512998373hcehd1512998373leifr1512998373ag@re1512998373mrach1512998373). The firm is handling the case on a pro bono basis.