City lends hand in stalled trail project
Glenwood Springs City Council has agreed to lend at least its name, if not money, to help see the stalled South Canyon bike trail through to eventual completion.
Also, in an effort to complete another dead-end trail within city limits and make other pedestrian connections around town, council last week reprioritized two pedestrian-oriented projects for the next round of Garfield Federal Mineral Lease District grant funding.
Though concerned about committing any money of its own for the upper section of what’s envisioned as the eventual Lower Valley (LoVa) Trail along the Colorado River from Glenwood Springs to Mesa County, the city will at least take the lead for any grant opportunities that might come along.
“If this trail project is going to continue, some government entity will have to take responsibility for it,” Larry Dragon, head of the LoVa trails group, said at the Aug. 6 City Council meeting.
As it stands, with help from the city, Garfield County and some initial state grants, two dead-end sections of the South Canyon trail have been completed at a cost of about $1.6 million.
One extends west from Mitchell Creek in Glenwood Springs a short distance between the Colorado River and Interstate 70. The other extends nearly a quarter mile east toward town from the historic South Canyon bridge.
Still to be completed is a rugged, 1.8-mile stretch below the interstate that would connect the two segments. But at an estimated cost to complete the project of about $4.4 million, money has been hard to come by.
Garfield County commissioners had agreed in 2013 to build another short section of the trail nearest Glenwood Springs using $560,000 in federal Transportation Enhancement funds, plus about $100,000 in county money.
Following the LoVa group’s decision last year to pull back and focus its efforts on helping New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute with various trail projects, the county decided to scrap the project amid a string of budget cuts earlier this year. In doing so, it relinquished the federal money.
Still, “We believe that there will be significant future funding opportunities” through various other state and federal grant programs, Dragon said.
LoVa also now has the support of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, which recently was awarded funding from the city to do some more planning for several new mountain biking trails in and around Glenwood Springs.
‘EXPENSIVE AND PAINFUL’
One of the areas the RFMBA is focusing on is city-owned property and BLM lands in the South Canyon area.
“This is not a trail to nowhere, and we need to grab onto this opportunity,” RFMBA Executive Director Mike Pritchard said at last week’s council meeting.
“I know it will be expensive, painful and difficult, but at the end of the day it’s going to be necessary to make sure people can pedal, hike and run to that area without getting on the interstate,” he said.
City Council made it clear the city currently has no extra money to contribute to the project, or even use as matching funds, given recent commitments to help fund the planned Grand Avenue Bridge replacement and related projects.
“I just don’t know where this is going to fit into our 2016 priorities in terms of coming up with some money and managing this project,” Councilman Matt Steckler said.
Other council members agreed, but the board ultimately voted unanimously to have the city at least serve as the official applicant for any potential grants.
“It really is just a matter of beginning the planning process with a government entity, which we can’t do as a nonprofit,” Dragon said. “These grant monies have to be pursued by governments.”
Added Councilman Leo McKinney, “In concept, I fully support what you are trying to do. Glenwood Springs is uniquely situated for people who are looking to bike.”
The city’s Parks and Recreation and River Commission will also be asked to weigh in on the South Canyon trail planning and give it priority among other projects.
SEEKING LEASE DISTRICT MONEY
On a related note, City Council also agreed last week to give top priority, for a second time, to seek Garfield FMLD funding to complete the Midland Avenue pedestrian and bike path from where it ends near the Lowe’s Home Improvement store to I-70 Exit 114.
The trail, seen as an important link between the Glenwood Meadows shopping center and neighborhoods and schools north of I-70, was given top priority in the spring cycle for FMLD grants but was passed over. Applications for the fall cycle are due later this month.
The Midland trail was given priority by the city over resubmittal of a request for $1 million to go toward the south Midland Avenue reconstruction project, which also was passed over for FMLD money last year.
Other projects on the list for possible grant submittal included a request for funding assistance to reset the existing Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge span near 14th Street across the Roaring Fork River to Midland, and a possible request to rebuild one or two downtown Glenwood alleys.
The city will also put in this fall for a FMLD mini-grant in the amount of $25,000 to help pay for pedestrian and bicycle way-finding routes around Glenwood, including signs in key locations.
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The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is working with local businesses and organizations to celebrate the spirit of Strawberry Days with a Berry Special Weekend from June 18-20, according to a news release.