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September 9, 2013
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Garfield County holds up its end for partial South Canyon trail funding

Garfield County commissioners agreed Monday to keep up the county’s end of the funding bargain in an effort to build another short paved trail segment of approximately one-fifth of a mile from West Glenwood into South Canyon.

Commissioners, meeting in Carbondale, voted 3-0 to allocate $114,000 toward the estimated $1 million project, which would extend the existing trail from Mitchell Creek another 1,150 feet along Interstate 70 to a proposed observation deck overlooking the Colorado River.

The decision comes on the heels of a vote by Glenwood Springs City Council last week to allocate $111,000 to the South Canyon trail.

It’s all part of a joint effort between the county and city to retain $577,000 in federal “transportation enhancement” funding for the trail project, including $135,000 that had been allocated to another pedestrian trail project in Glenwood Springs.

The combined $225,000 commitment from the city and county, plus the federal funds that local officials will try to convince regional transportation planners later this fall to keep in the mix, still leaves the entities about $200,000 short to complete even the partial trail segment.

But it’s still a step toward eventually completing the roughly 2.5-mile-long pedestrian and bike path link between Glenwood Springs and the South Canyon bridge, County Manager Andrew Gorgey said.

Completion of the full trail has been estimated to cost about $4.4 million.

“What we’re trying to do is not let over half a million of federal funds out the door,” Gorgey said of a possible decision by the state’s Intermountain Transportation Planning Region (IMTPR), which administers the federal funds, to reallocate dollars now dedicated to the Glenwood Springs-area projects.

County officials intend to make a case to the IMTPR that, even though it’s still a dead-end trail into South Canyon at this point, “every foot of trail going west is logically connected” to the existing Glenwood Canyon and Rio Grande trail systems that extend east and south of Glenwood Springs, Gorgey said.

Besides $442,000 that the IMTPR has earmarked for the South Canyon trail, local officials also hope to divert another $135,000 in funds that had been allocated to the city’s Three Mile Creek pedestrian bridge to the South Canyon project instead.

The city still plans to build the Three Mile bridge, but has applied instead for Garfield Federal Mineral Lease District funds to complete that project.

Commissioner Mike Samson said it makes sense for the county to do what it can to keep the South Canyon project alive.

“It would be foolish for us to not spend $114,000 in partnership with the city of Glenwood to get the extra federal funding to do this,” Samson said.

Originally, the county had agreed to a $1.8 million match, and the city up to $600,000, contingent on the Lower Valley (LoVa) trails group obtaining a $1.5 million Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant to complete the trail connection.

LoVa had requested that the city and county both maintain their full funding commitment even though the GOCO grant was rejected last year. Both entities have since redirected those funds to other projects, however.

“There has been some misinformation that we left people high and dry [with that decision],” Samson said of the county’s position that the original funding was meant only to match the GOCO grant.

“We didn’t hang anyone out to dry,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky voted to approve the partial funding to at least go part way with the trail extension, albeit reluctantly, adding that $1 million for little more than a thousand feet of trail seems rather expensive.

The high cost for the South Canyon trail is primarily due to the engineering required to build a trail along the steep embankment between I-70 and the river.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Sep 10, 2013 09:49AM Published Sep 11, 2013 10:51PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.