Garfield & Hecht, P.C. File Pro Bono Lawsuit
Garfield & Hecht, P.C. Attorneys File Pro Bono Lawsuit to Save Verena Mallory Trail
In the fall of 1991, long-time Aspen resident and philanthropist Frederick “Fritz” Benedict gave local outdoor enthusiasts a priceless gift: the Verena Mallory Trail. Earlier that year, Fritz commissioned the construction of the Trial to ensure wider public access to and use of the open space and recreational amenities on Smuggler Mountain. The Trail offers a gentler, less steep, and less rocky alternative to the adjacent Hunter Creek Trail. Recreationalists have been using the Trial since its creation over 24 years ago.
A few short months after the Trail was completed, Fritz and his wife Fabienne donated the parcel of land through which the Trail runs to a local land trust—Park Trust, Ltd. Park Trust was the predecessor-in-title to Aspen Valley Land Trust, the current owner of the property. Nonetheless, the Trail remained open to the public. Roaring Fork Valley locals and visitors continued to use the Trial year-round for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, picnicking, and sight-seeing. In addition to being a unique recreational experience in itself, the Trail also provides access to a lookout point in Verena Mallory Park that offers one-of-a-kind views of Aspen Mountain and the Aspen Valley.
It was not until 2012 that anyone began to question the public’s use of the Trail. According to AVLT, it then discovered, for the first time, certain language in the conveyance deeds that AVLT argues prohibits the establishment of the Trail and its continued existence. AVLT did not make its concerns known to the public until the fall of 2014 when it announced its plans to close and reclaim the Trial. AVLT delayed taking such action to pursue potential solutions with Pitkin County, but those discussions ceased in late August, 2015.
Because Pitkin County chose not to take legal action to ensure the Trail remained open to the public, a group of concerned citizens formed Friends of Verena Mallory Trail, a Colorado nonprofit organization, to protect the Trail and the public’s right to use it. To that end, Friends hired Garfield & Hecht, P.C., to initiate a lawsuit in Pitkin County District Court to determine (a) whether the conveyance deeds allow for the continued existence of the Trial or (b) whether the Trail must remain intact and open to the public by way of a public prescriptive easement. Garfield & Hecht, P.C. is honored to represent Friends on a pro bono-basis and to do its part to ensure that the Trail beloved by so many remains open to the public for generations to come.
To find out more about this case, provide your stories and insights about the Trail, or to become a member and supporter of Friends of Verena Mallory Trail, please contact Chris Bryan () or Haley Carmer (). Additional information about the Trail can also be found on the Verena Mallory Trail Facebook page.