Carbondale, RFTA look into lighting for Rio Grande Trail |

Carbondale, RFTA look into lighting for Rio Grande Trail

Ryan Summerlin

Carbondale is looking to team up with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to pursue a state planning grant for lighting the Rio Grande Trail through town.

The extent of potential lighting on the trail would be worked out during the planning process. And not everyone on the Town Council is sold that lighting the Rio Grande should take priority with the town’s limited money. Carbondale trustees agreed to put up $5,000 to apply for a $50,000 Great Outdoors Colorado planning grant. RFTA will decide Oct. 12 whether to put up matching cash too.

The Town Council has been discussing lighting the Rio Grande Trail through town since a couple of assaults occurred at night in Carbondale last year, and many residents, women in particular, called on the town to improve public safety. Since then, the town’s Bike, Pedestrian and Trials Commission has developed a “priority corridors” map listing the streets and trials where the town should focus its limited resources.

The town has made a couple of infrastructure improvements in response to the call for safe routes. On the east side of Colorado 133, the town has installed new lighting between Village Road and Cowen Drive. Those lights are expected to be operational soon, after some final electrical work. And a new section of sidewalk bordering Gianinetti Park has been finished, bringing that walking route next to the lit street.

However, during the public safety discussions last year, lighting the Rio Grande Trail did not come out as a top priority, as many residents said its isolation made them avoid the path at night and adding lights wouldn’t do much to make it feel safer. The trail was designated as a daytime priority route, not as a nighttime priority route.

Still, a majority of trustees decided last week that it would be worth studying potential lighting for the path.

Mayor Dan Richardson reasoned that applying for the GOCO grant is an opportunity to leverage that $5,000 and do a lot more than the town could otherwise.

Lighting isn’t going to make it feel safer for someone who doesn’t feel safe at night, because there aren’t a lot of eyes there and the trail has long fenced corridors, said Trustee Ben Bohmfalk. But he supported steps to develop a lighting design, considering that it would require a minimal contribution from the town. This grant would pay for public outreach as well as the design and conceptual plan set.

The added lighting would also improve safety having to do with collisions rather than assaults. Trustees say there are often close calls when cyclists have low visibility.

If this planning process works out, the next step could involve going after a much bigger GOCO grant and having a much bigger discussion with RFTA, said Bohmfalk.

“We’re not committing to the project, we’re just committing to developing a plan,” said Richardson.

Trustees Frosty Merriott and Heather Henry voted against putting in the GOCO planning application, as they questioned whether lighting the trail fits into the town’s safe routes priorities.

Merriott added his concerns about diminishing Carbondale’s view of the night sky.

“All of this is cumulative, the more light we put out there,” he said.

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