Garfield County to designate Red Hill road a tow zone
CARBONDALE — Garfield County plans to take measures to control illegal parking along the narrow, winding county road that leads to the popular Red Hill Recreation Area trailhead.
On busy days, overflow parking in the dedicated parking lot at the base of Red Hill, located at the intersection of County Road 107 and Highways 82 and 133 just north of Carbondale, often leads to illegal parking along the quarter-mile stretch of road up to the trailhead.
The county is working with the town of Carbondale, the Bureau of Land Management and user groups to eventually build a safer trail connection from the parking lot to the trailhead, so that trail users don’t have to walk or bike on the road itself.
Aside from that effort, limited parking remains a problem, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said during the regular Garfield Board of County Commissioners meeting on Monday.
“The sheriff’s office continues to receive complaints about people parking in the pullout areas (on the road),” Vallario said.
The pullouts are intended to give motorists space to drive around pedestrians and bicyclists who are accessing the trailhead, and are specifically marked for “no parking.”
Recently, sheriff’s and county road and bridge department officials met to come up with a solution that will involve placing boulders in the pullout areas to prevent parking but still allow vehicles enough room to pass trail users.
County commissioners also gave permission to mark the areas as tow-away zones, so that anyone who parks illegally will be on notice that their vehicles could be removed, if necessary.
“It’s similar in scope to what’s going on at the Hanging Lake trail, just on a smaller scale,” said Walt Stowe, the former Garfield County commissioner who was recently hired as the new community relations officer for the Sheriff’s Office.
Recently, Colorado Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service officials announced plans to crack down on overflow parking at the popular Hanging Lake area along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Meanwhile, county commissioners may schedule a site visit soon to get a better look at the county road and other concerns regarding the Red Hill area.
Last week, commissioners met with the Carbondale Board of Trustees to discuss preliminary options for a new trail connection, as well as alternatives to provide a safer crossing of Highway 82 to the Red Hill area.
At anywhere from $2 million to $5 million for some of those alternatives, based on preliminary estimates, commissioners are hoping to come up with some less-expensive options.
“That would be a real expensive trail,” Commissioner John Martin said during the May 14 meeting in Carbondale in reference to preliminary designs that would run a trail up the gorge below the county road.
“It’d be a mini-Glenwood Canyon,” he said, comparing it to the paved trail that runs between I-70 and the Colorado River east of Glenwood Springs.
Added Commissioner Tom Jankovsky during that same meeting, “I think our priority is to get people off County Road 107 and safely to the … parking lot.”
Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot agreed that safety on the county road is the more immediate concern.
“If we can look forward to getting some safety improvements just for 107 road, I think people will be a lot happier,” she said.
A broader Red Hill transportation alternatives study, funded by a federal grant last fall, is also looking at ways to provide a safer highway crossing. That could involve either an improved at-grade highway crossing, or a separated pedestrian bridge or underpass.
Consultants are scheduled to give a project update to the county commissioners at a special BOCC work session meeting on June 11 in Glenwood Springs.
(Post Independent reporter John Colson contributed to this report.)
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