GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County and city of Glenwood Springs officials would like to see at least part of the unfinished bike path along Interstate 70 in South Canyon built, but will need to convince state transportation planners to keep about $442,000 in federal funding in the mix to make it happen.
They’ll also have to do it without the direct involvement of the citizens group that initiated the effort to someday build an uninterrupted bike path along the I-70 and Colorado River corridor from Glenwood Springs to the Mesa County line.
“Our mission is still to see this trail get done, and to get it done as quickly as possible,” Larry Dragon, a co-founder of the Lower Valley (LoVa) trail group, said during a recent discussion between Glenwood Springs City Council members and Garfield County representatives.
“We’re no longer involved in this [South Canyon segment],” he said, adding it will be up to the city and the county to secure the funding necessary to complete that stretch of trail.
The group is now working with the town of New Castle to begin design work on a trail segment from New Castle east toward Canyon Creek, Dragon said.
Recently, LoVa asked Garfield County commissioners to reinstate $1.8 million toward the estimated $4.4 million cost to connect what are now two, short, dead-end, paved trail segments, one extending west from the Mitchell Creek area in West Glenwood, and the other running east from the South Canyon bridge area.
The county’s money was originally intended as part of a local match for what ended up being an unsuccessful $1.5 million Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) River Corridors Initiative grant proposal last year.
The county has since redirected its more immediate efforts to help plan for and fund other trail projects in the county, including the Red Hill trail link outside Carbondale.
But that’s not to say the county has bailed on the South Canyon project, County Commissioner John Martin said during the Aug. 15 meeting with City Council.
“We are still committed to getting that trail done, even if it’s in bits and parts,” Martin said.
Garfield County Manager Andrew Gorgey said he recently spoke with members of the state’s Intermountain Transportation Planning Region (IMTPR) roundtable about retaining the federal “enhancement dollars” that were also part of the funding package for the South Canyon trail.
That would require the county to kick in $111,000, which county commissioners may be willing to support, and up to $600,000 that the city has earmarked for the trail project.
“Those dollars are very difficult to obtain, and I’d like to see us do what we can to use them,” Gorgey said of the federal enhancement dollars, adding there’s other unspent federal money dedicated to local trails projects that may also be redirected to the South Canyon project.
All together, though, it would still leave only about $1 million to potentially build as much trail as possible from the West Glenwood end.
“Every section we could get built west [from Glenwood Springs] is trail that will not have to be built in the future,” Gorgey said. “We may not see these federal dollars again, so this may be the last chance to use that money and get what we can out of it.”
The fact that the trail would still connect to the Glenwood Canyon Bike Path to the east, and to the Rio Grande Trail headed south, might be used as an argument to keep the federal dollars intact, he said.
City Council agreed to continue the discussion at its Sept. 5 meeting, and Gorgey said he is prepared to formally take the proposal to the IMTPR group at its October meeting.
Also recently, county commissioners agreed to put $12,500 toward the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s efforts to develop an updated bicycle and pedestrian plan for the region, including Garfield and Pitkin counties and the Eagle County portion of the Roaring Fork Valley.
While the county has been supportive of various trail efforts, commissioners are quick to point out that the county will not likely be in a position to be responsible for long-term maintenance of trails in the future.
“One of our problems is that we do not have a trails program or a parks and recreation department to take care of all these trails,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said during a separate discussion with RFTA officials last week. “There needs to be a plan for who maintains these trails in the future.”
Jankovsky and fellow commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin said their hope is that the bicycle and pedestrian plan study will also look at the potential for a tax-funded regional trails authority to build and maintain bike and pedestrian paths in the future.
“Trails are extremely important in our county,” Jankovsky said, adding that a trail link between Silt and Coal Ridge High School is also being discussed.