Commissioners give $500,000 to trail and park projects |

Commissioners give $500,000 to trail and park projects

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. A Roaring Fork Valley recreational trail could be completed next year and a Rifle park project moved a step closer toward reality Tuesday after Garfield County commissioners contributed a total of $500,000 to the two undertakings.The commissioners agreed to give $300,000 to the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s Rio Grande Trail and $200,000 to Rifle’s Centennial Park project.RFTA officials say that after obtaining the county funds, they expect to be able find the remaining $225,000 needed to finish the trail in 2008.”If we finish it next year that would be two years ahead of schedule, which would be fantastic,” Mike Hermes, RFTA’s director of properties, told county commissioners Tuesday.The county originally committed the $300,000 toward the LoVa (Lower Valley Trails Group) effort to build a trail west of Glenwood Springs to South Canyon. But soaring construction costs caused LoVa to focus on just a small segment this year, and it already had other funds to cover that work.In a letter to the county, LoVa Executive Director Larry Dragon supported shifting the $300,000 to RFTA. “The completion of this important trail truly is in sight, and when it is completed, the emphasis can be on the LoVa trail,” he wrote.The only part of the Rio Grande Trail left to complete will run north of Carbondale. RFTA completed a section heading south from 23rd Street in Glenwood Springs in time for the Labor Day weekend. Hermes said it began seeing heavy use by recreationists as soon paving was done.”We had trouble keeping them off the hot asphalt,” he said.County Commissioner Trési Houpt said numerous partners have made the Rio Grande Trail possible, and it is boosting local economies.”We really benefit greatly from the completion of this trail,” she said.Hermes said midvalley bike shops have reported that the trail has been great for their business.Rifle’s Centennial Park project is tied in to that city’s trail-building efforts. Encompassing 14 acres, it would follow Rifle Creek and the Rifle Creek Trail from Third to Ninth streets. Rifle’s trail system eventually is planned to run from the northern end of Rifle all the way to where LoVa hopes to build an east-west trail through western Garfield County.The park plan was unveiled at the city’s centennial celebration in 2005 and is projected to cost $5 million. The city has committed $2 million. The state Department of Local Affairs has agreed to provide a $500,000 energy impact grant, contingent on the city being successful in its application for a $750,000 Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) grant.Rifle asked the county for $200,000 partly because GOCO considers matching funds and partnerships in weighing whether to provide grants.The park also would benefit the county by providing a trail connection from the park’s north end to the county fairgrounds.The park would have informational panels describing Rifle’s history and the park’s wetlands and riparian areas. It also would have picnic shelters, a water play area, a fitness course, and a large open area for special events and informal play. The first step in the park’s construction would involve shoring up the stream and trying to reduce its flood threat to the park and nearby residences. The area has experienced prior flooding problems.Aleks Briedis, Rifle’s recreation director, expressed appreciation for the county’s support of the park project.”This is going to be a worthwhile project not only for the city but the region as a whole,” he said.County Commissioner Larry McCown cast the sole vote against the two funding requests Tuesday. He explained later that he opposed funding the Rifle project because Rifle has its own tax-supported parks and recreation program, while the county doesn’t.He also said the county is spending nearly $1 million this year on behalf of bicyclists, between the $300,000 for the RFTA trail and $600,000 in extra road and bridge funding that is being spent to use smaller gravel in chip and seal projects so they are easier for cyclists to ride.”I’m ready to start licensing them, make them pay their own way,” McCown said of cyclists.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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