GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City Council has agreed to go part way to have the city of Glenwood Springs fund another partial, 1,150-foot segment of trail in South Canyon, as part of a coordinated effort with Garfield County to retain $442,000 in federal funding that local officials are hoping to keep in the mix.
Council voted at its regular Sept. 5 meeting to allocate $111,000 toward the estimated $1 million trail segment that would extend from the point where the existing trail ends just beyond Mitchell Creek.
That’s roughly the amount required to trigger the federal enhancement dollars that have been allocated to the project, but which are up for renewal by the state’s Intermountain Transportation Planning Region (IMTPR) board this fall.
But, with the city’s priorities shifting to the proposed Eighth Street connection and other capital projects that are already in progress, council was not willing to maintain a $600,000 commitment made two years ago to complete the trail connection from West Glenwood to South Canyon.
“As much as most of us want to see that trail be fully connected, so many things are coming down the pike for the city that we have to make some priority decisions,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney said in a phone interview following last week’s council meeting.
“If we did [agree to the full $600,000], it would mean we would have to sacrifice something else,” he said.
The South Canyon Trail is the first segment in what the Lower Valley (LoVa) Trails Group eventually envisions as an uninterrupted, paved bike and pedestrian trail following the Interstate 70 and Colorado River corridor from Glenwood Springs to Mesa County.
So far, however, only a short trail segment and bridge across Mitchell Creek exists on the east end, and another short trail segment extending back toward Glenwood Springs from the South Canyon bridge. The estimated cost to complete the roughly four-mile-long section of trail is $4.4 million.
The high cost is due to the engineering required to build a trail on the steep embankment between I-70 and the river.
The city originally pledged $600,000 over three years as matching funds, while the county was in for $1.8 million, in an effort to obtain a $1.5 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant last year to complete the trail.
When the GOCO grant was rejected, the county redirected its money to other trail projects, including planning for the Red Hill trail connection near Carbondale.
The city of Glenwood, meanwhile, has been redirecting unspent money to planning, designing and eventually building the Eighth Street connection to Midland Avenue. That project has taken precedence of late, as the new link could serve as a detour alternative during the anticipated replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge on Highway 82 in two years.
Recently, Garfield County Manager Andrew Gorgey and County Commissioner John Martin pitched the idea to the city of retaining enough local funding to keep the federal enhancement dollars in play and build as much of the South Canyon Trail as possible.
Gorgey noted that, once federal funds funneled through the IMTPR are reallocated, it can be difficult to obtain future funding.
He intends to make a case to the IMTPR board at its October meeting to keep the $442,000 allocated to the South Canyon Trail in place, on the argument that some additional trail is better than none at all.
County commissioners may also continue the trail discussion from their end, when they meet today in Carbondale.