CARBONDALE — A plan to build a trail link alongside Garfield County Road 107 to the popular Red Hill Recreation Area is on hold again, after new engineering costs bumped the price tag over $5 million.
That extra cost, compared to an earlier estimate of $3.4 million, means the county will not be able to pursue a Great Outdoors Colorado Paths to Parks grant request after all, according to county planner Tamra Allen.
“Unfortunately, that put the request outside of the scope for the GOCO grant,” Allen advised county commissioners at their Monday meeting.
It the county were to proceed, it would require about a $3 million local match, which the county and the town of Carbondale are not in a position to offer, she said.
The trail link had been proposed to include the expansion of an old cattle tunnel under Highway 82 for use as a pedestrian underpass to the Red Hill side of the highway. The proposal also envisioned a connection either to Carbondale’s Gateway Park area west of the Highway 133 bridge, or across a new pedestrian bridge over the Roaring Fork River directly into town.
In addition to providing a safe highway crossing and town link, the other goal has been to get Red Hill trail users safely from the parking lot next to the highway up the approximately quarter-mile stretch of county road to the trail head.
The plan was to widen the road surface to accommodate foot and bicycle side traffic in addition to vehicles accessing homes in the area.
However, when the county ran the proposal by a third-party engineer to cross-check the estimates, the number came in at about $5.2 million to complete the project, Allen said.
Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel, who has been pursuing plans for Red Hill Area improvements for several years, said one option may be to eliminate the underpass and make pedestrian safety improvements at the highway intersection instead.
“GOCO indicated that wouldn’t work for the grant, for which the idea is to get people to parks safely,” Jackel said. “Unfortunately, it’s back to the drawing board for us.”
Jackel said there may be a possibility to pursue federal funding for the improvements, since Red Hill is on U.S. Bureau of Land Management land.
County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said the higher engineering costs associated with the roadway didn’t surprise him, given the work that would be necessary to cut into the hillside and expand the county road.
“I kept looking at what it would take to expand the road, and was it feasible,” he said.
Given the extra cost, Jankovsky said it might make sense to instead approach an adjacent property owner about acquiring a trail easement separate from the road right of way.
Commissioners said the project remains a priority, but, “We’re a long way from doing that trail now,” Jankovsky said.
Meanwhile, Jackel said the town will concentrate its efforts on making minor improvements to the Gateway Park campground this summer, rather than pursuing any big-ticket projects.
The town did recently win a water court decree securing in-stream recreational flow rights in the Roaring Fork River to eventually construct a whitewater park as part of the larger Gateway Park plans. The decision concluded a six-year effort by the town to secure the water right.
However, Carbondale currently does not have the funding to construct the park, Jackel said.
New Castle trail plan proceeds
Also this week, county commissioners took the next step to help the town of New Castle complete a pedestrian and bicycle link to Apple Tree Park along County Road 335. Town officials are working with the county to come up with an intergovernmental agreement that will spell out who is responsible for what, including police enforcement along the trail. The county wants the town police, rather than the county sheriff, to be responsible for that.