LoVa group shifts focus to community trail projects around Garfield County | PostIndependent.com

LoVa group shifts focus to community trail projects around Garfield County

NEW CASTLE — Following a stalled effort last year to fully fund a major section of the South Canyon trail, the Lower Valley Trails Group (LoVa) is handing that project over to Garfield County for now and is refocusing its efforts on several local trail projects that are in the works from Glenwood Springs to Parachute.

LoVa’s mission continues to be the eventual creation of an uninterrupted paved trail along the Colorado River and Interstate 70 corridor from Glenwood Springs to the Mesa County line, Larry Dragon, the group’s part-time executive director, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“We still fully support Garfield County’s efforts to complete the South Canyon trail, and look forward to the day that we again can partner with the county,” Dragon said of the county’s efforts to maintain funding for at least a small section of the canyon trail to be completed this year.

However, “We are now shifting our attention to Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute to assist in their efforts to expand trail networks in and through their communities,” he said.

“There are a lot of exciting things going on in the different towns, and we will be assisting them in every way possible,” Dragon said in a separate interview.

Among them is the town of New Castle’s plans to build a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the railroad tracks, I-70 and the river to a new trail connection along County Road 335 to Apple Tree Park. The county is also assisting on that project.

New Castle is in the early stages as well to plan for a paved trail east to the Canyon Creek area, Dragon noted.

The town of Silt also continues to expand its in-town trail system, and is exploring ways to create a safe path from town out to Coal Ridge High School along Highway 6.

And Rifle is planning to expand the Rifle Creek Trail and to add trails to its new riverfront park and boat ramp on the south side of the Colorado River at the I-70 rest area. LoVa has agreed to assist on the trails portion of that project, Dragon said.

Likewise, Parachute is also preparing to develop a trails master plan.

“It makes sense for us to work with the different towns to try to get these trails in and around the local communities built, even though we will still have these gaps in-between,” Dragon said.

Dragon said LoVa can help with planning efforts, identifying and obtaining funds for trails, negotiating with adjacent landowners and other stakeholders, grant writing and public outreach.

LoVa has also developed a detailed master trail plan that is “on the shelf” and available for local officials to use in their near- and long-term planning, he said.

From its inception in 2004, LoVa’s main emphasis has been to work with Garfield County and the city of Glenwood Springs to plan for and construct the easternmost section of trail from West Glenwood through South Canyon.

To date, two phases have been completed, in 2009 and 2011, at a cost of about $1.6 million. Those included short trail segments running west from Mitchell Creek and east back toward town from the South Canyon bridge.

Still to be completed, however, is a 1.8-mile stretch connecting the two dead-end segments. However, at an estimated cost of about $4.4 million to complete the project, due to the engineering necessary to built the trail on the steep embankment between the interstate and the river, funding has been hard to come by.

In late 2012, Great Outdoors Colorado rejected a proposed $1.5 million grant to help build the trail. That effort was bolstered by a $1.8 million match from the county and $600,000 from the city of Glenwood Springs.

LoVa tried to talk the county and city into keeping their full funding in the mix and going it alone to build the trail. Instead, they agreed to put $225,000 toward retaining a $577,000 federal transportation enhancement grant that had previously been awarded to the project.

The result will be the completion of another 1,150-foot trail segment from the Glenwood Springs side into South Canyon, which is slated to be built this year.

Garfield County had also supplied most of LoVa’s operational support. But the organization is alive and well with its new focus on helping with the local trail projects, according to Mike Larime, who co-chairs the LoVa board.

“LoVa is still stable and viable, and has restructured to ensure its continued participation in the promotion of local trail networks, especially those that serve the Colorado River corridor,” Larime said in the group’s Tuesday news release.

For information or to get involved with LoVa, email ldragon@lovatrails.org.

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