City to consider funding to connect LoVa trail
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The Lower Valley (LoVa) Trails Group is gearing up to put funding in place for Phase 3 of the South Canyon trail, which it hopes to have completed by 2014.
The second phase of the trail, a 2,000-foot stretch running from the South Canyon bridge east toward West Glenwood, was completed earlier this year. Phase 1, from West Glenwood heading into the eastern end of the canyon, was done in 2009.
Next to be completed is a difficult, 1.8-mile stretch of trail that will connect those two segments, at an estimated cost of $3.5 million, LoVa Executive Director Larry Dragon said at the Sept. 1 Glenwood Springs City Council meeting.
LoVa already has $1.9 million in funding commitments to complete the trail connection, including $1.2 million from Garfield County and $442,000 from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
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The group will apply for a $1 million Great Outdoors Colorado River Corridor Initiative grant after the first of the year.
For the city’s part, LoVa is looking for another $600,000 commitment over the next three years.
“That would be contingent on getting the GOCO grant,” Dragon said. “We do try to leverage as much as we can with grants.”
The South Canyon project has been a collaborative effort between LoVa, Garfield County, the city of Glenwood Springs, CDOT and Colorado State Parks.
Once fully completed, it will provide a safe alternative for cyclists and pedestrians to travel between Glenwood Springs and New Castle. It’s also part of the larger LoVa Trail project, which envisions a continuous, 47-mile trail through the Colorado River Valley from Glenwood Springs to the Mesa County line.
“I look at this as a way to leverage our investment and make Glenwood Springs more of a true destination than a stop-over,” Mayor Matt Steckler said of the tourism benefit, in addition to the trail being a local transportation amenity.
The question for the city, though, is how to prioritize funding for the trail project as council considers a long list of discretionary funding requests in the coming years.
Council agreed to include the trail funding on its list of options during the upcoming 2012 budget planning.
“The money is there, but the question for you is whether that is how you want to spend the limited funds you have,” City Manager Jeff Hecksel advised the council.
In the past, funding for the LoVa trail project has come from the city’s special Acquisitions and Improvements fund. That’s likely where it would have to be budgeted from again, Hecksel said.
“You will have choices (about how to use that money), but you will have to choose,” he said. “You can’t do everything.”
Councilman Mike Gamba offered cautious support for the trail funding.
“I would support it, but maybe not at the expense of something else,” he said.
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