Garfield County upping trail commitment |

Garfield County upping trail commitment

Garfield County is leaning toward significantly increasing its contribution to a trail project in South Canyon.

Now trail organizers hope the city of Glenwood Springs can do the same.

“That will be difficult,” City Council member Chris McGovern predicted this week in a meeting between council, county commissioners and representatives of the Lower Valley Trails Group, or LOVA.

Garfield County has agreed to redirect to LoVa $40,000 that had been earmarked for other trail projects this year but aren’t being used. More significantly, county commissioners also appear ready to donate $243,000 more for design, engineering and construction management fees.

LoVa executive director Larry Dragon said the county previously committed $150,000 to the trail, along with significant in-kind contributions.

Glenwood Springs has committed $150,000 to the project, and expects to spend about $100,000 more on a bridge over Mitchell Creek in West Glenwood that will connect the South Canyon trail to the city’s trail system.

LoVa representatives looked to the city and county for more funds this week because soaring construction costs have driven the estimate for building 2.3 miles of trail from West Glenwood to South Canyon to as much as $2.6 million. The estimate stood at $1.8 million in 2004.

Trail organizers lack the funds to cover the difference, and have already cut costs through measures such as reducing the trail width from 10 feet to 8 feet and planning to use asphalt rather than concrete.

They were pleased when county commissioners Tresi Houpt and John Martin voiced support Thursday for the $243,000 contribution.

The decision apparently has not been formalized on the county’s part, and the issue also remains a little unclear. Commissioner Larry McCown, who wasn’t at Thursday’s meeting, said his understanding is that the county has agreed to cover what it already has invested in design and other work, and that its total commitment to the project is about $250,000.

The way Dragon understands it, the $243,000 in fees to be covered would come on top of the county’s previous monetary and in-kind commitments.

Glenwood Mayor Bruce Christensen praised the county for its support of the trail.

“We really appreciate the county’s direction on this. You guys have really come on board with this project,” he told Houpt and Martin.

Although city officials also want to help out more, they say the city’s budget situation remains tight.

One funding source might be a $143,000 state grant originally intended to build a pedestrian bridge across Interstate 70 at Devereux Road.

City staff members have proposed using the money for a pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River in West Glenwood instead. But the money could be used on the South Canyon trail.

Alternatively, the city could use funding now being held for other eventual trail work in town.

However, diverting money from other projects could result in opposition. Council member Dave Merritt questioned dropping the Devereux bridge project, which would provide access to Two Rivers Park, the biggest in town.

The city also may look at using surplus money from its landfill at South Canyon. But city officials have been trying to get away from using landfill proceeds to subsidize other programs, and council member Joe O’Donnell voiced reservations about doing so for the sake of the trail.

City officials have agreed to explore ways of further helping fund the trail effort. Meanwhile, LoVa member Jeanne Golay said it may be time to start looking at trying to pass a tax of some sort to fund trails at a regional level.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

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