Hanging Lake Trail restoration gets $2.3M GOCO grant boost | PostIndependent.com

Hanging Lake Trail restoration gets $2.3M GOCO grant boost

Rocks and debris block the way to bridge number five along the trail to Hanging Lake after last summer’s flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Efforts to rebuild the Hanging Lake Trail in Glenwood Canyon that was severely damaged during last summer’s debris flows in the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar received a big boost from Great Outdoors Colorado on Friday.

The GOCO board awarded a $2,282,000 grant to the National Forest Foundation and the city of Glenwood Springs to restore the trail, which has remained closed since the flooding from historic rainfall in July and August 2021.

According to a news release, the grant is part of GOCO’s Community Impact program, which develops and revitalizes parks, trails, school yards, fairgrounds, environmental education facilities, and other outdoor projects that enhance a community’s quality of life and access to the outdoors.

“We are grateful to GOCO for their generous support of the Hanging Lake Trail restoration effort,” Mary Mitsos, President and CEO for the National Forest Foundation, said in the release.

The NFF is collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service, the city of Glenwood Springs, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and other groups to rebuild the trail. That will likely start with a temporary primitive trail to the iconic lake later this summer, and eventually a rebuilt permanent trail.

Since 2019, Hanging Lake has operated under a permit system to limit the number of daily visitors to the area, following an extensive management planning effort by the Forest Service. Access to the area has been disrupted for two straight years now during the peak summer season, first by the Grizzly Creek Fire in August of 2020 and from the resulting mud and debris flows last summer.

“We are extremely grateful for this significant GOCO grant, which will be a foundation for rebuilding a sustainable trail to last the next 100 years,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said in the release. “This grant and the contributions of many partners and volunteers will allow us to rebuild the Hanging Lake Trail much more quickly than we ever expected. This is a great day for the recreating public.”

Bridge number one on the Hanging Lake Trail is covered in mud and heavily damaged from debris flows after last summer’s flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Last summer’s debris flows, triggered by what was referred to by meteorologists as a 500-year rain event, swept away major trail sections, took down bridges and trees, and buried parts of the trail in rubble. The usually crystal clear lake water was muddied for several days, but the lake itself was not impacted by the debris flows.

The trail’s closure, however, forced the cancellation of more than 15,000 trail reservations. The reservation system is run by Glenwood Springs-based H2O Ventures under contract with the city.

A $12 permit includes trail access and shuttle service to and from the Hanging Lake trailhead. Those fees provide a significant source of revenue that supports trail improvements, lake protection, shuttle operations, and staffing.

It is estimated that the direct economic value of Hanging Lake to Glenwood Springs exceeds $4.6 million per year, making renewed access to the area critical to community vitality and resilience, the release states.

Though the trail to Hanging Lake was severely damaged after last summer’s flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon the lake itself remained unscathed.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“Hanging Lake is a beloved community asset that holds a special place in the social fabric and economic vitality of Glenwood Springs,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said. “Our community is grateful to GOCO for their generous support to rebuild the trail to this irreplaceable destination and to our partners at the National Forest Foundation and the White River National Forest for their leadership on this project.”

The grant leverages dollars from all four of GOCO’s constitutionally established investment quadrants: funding for local governments and open space, and for outdoor recreation and wildlife through Colorado Parks and Wildlife, according to the release.

The GOCO funding is intended to support survey work, design and reconstruction of a more resilient and sustainable trail to Hanging Lake, the release states. The eventual work is aimed at restoring both the natural landscape surrounding the trail and the adjacent stream to minimize future erosion and protect water quality, it states.

Rocks and debris cover bridge number five along the trail to Hanging Lake after last summer’s flash flooding in Glenwood Canyon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

In addition to trail construction and restoration work, GOCO funds are to be used for interpretive signs to educate the public on the ecological impacts of the Grizzly Creek Fire, including the debris flows that often result after major fires due to the loss of vegetation and soil damage.

“Hanging Lake provides a meaningful connection to our National Forest lands,” said Jamie Werner, the White River National Forest Stewardship Coordinator with the National Forest Foundation. “GOCO’s support of an enhanced, more resilient trail ensures that Hanging Lake will continue to provide those special experiences to locals and visitors alike.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

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