LoVa Trail advocates want on governor’s list
A new initiative announced by Gov. John Hickenlooper earlier this summer to identify and fund missing trail links in Colorado could be just the ticket to give the stalled Lower Valley Trail project new life.
Garfield County commissioners this week agreed to join mayors from Glenwood Springs, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute in signing a letter to Hickenlooper asking to include the LoVa Trail on his “16 by 16” list of trail projects to be prioritized for state funding next year.
Last week, Hickenlooper also announced his plan to spend more than $100 million over the next four years in an effort to make Colorado “the best state for biking in the country.”
“We need to get on that map, and with this new initiative I can’t imagine a better trail project … to be part of a statewide network,” said Larry Dragon, executive director for the nonprofit LoVa Trails Group.
“If you’re not a squeaky wheel you don’t get on anything,” Dragon said of the effort to make the governor’s priority list. “This is intended to be a bit squeaky.”
LoVa has been working for more than 15 years to plan and build what it eventually envisions as a 47-mile, non-motorized trail running parallel to Interstate 70 and the Colorado River between Glenwood Springs and the Mesa County line.
So far, only two short, dead-end segments of the trail have been built just outside of Glenwood Springs at a cost of about $1.6 million, thanks to funding support from Garfield County, the city of Glenwood Springs and state grants.
One trail segment extends west from Mitchell Creek, and the other extends back to the east along the Colorado River at South Canyon.
That short stretch includes its own missing link — a 1.8-mile segment that would cost more than $4 million to construct due to the steep grade between I-70 and the river.
A master plan completed by the LoVa Group in 2003 maps out the trail through Garfield County, linking each of the communities along the I-70 corridor and potentially connecting to a trail system extending into Mesa County and on to the Utah state line.
“In addition to being the most needed regional trail in this area, the LoVa Trail is part of a much larger dream,” reads the letter that’s headed to the governor and other state officials. “It is a key component to a bike trail system, running east to west, paralleling I-70 through the entire state from Kansas to Utah.
“Without the LoVa Trail, the dream of having a safe route to ride a multi-day bike trek from Denver to Grand Junction is impossible without this trail’s completion,” the letter states.
It goes on to point out that each of the participating communities have planned and constructed trails within their jurisdictions that could be made part of the network. Other existing trail links include the 42-mile-long Rio Grande Trail between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, and the Glenwood Canyon bike path.
“However, the hoped-for bike trail to the west of Glenwood Springs … is the missing link,” the letter states.
Recently, Glenwood Springs City Council agreed to take the lead on any new grant proposals to help complete the South Canyon trail connection. However, the city was unwilling to commit to any matching money at this point.
Two years ago, Garfield County had agreed to build another short section of the trail near Glenwood Springs using $560,000 in federal Transportation Enhancement funds, plus about $100,000 in county money.
However, following LoVa’s decision last year to pull back and focus its efforts on helping local communities with various trail projects, county commissioners decided to scrap the project.
LoVa also now has the support of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, which recently was awarded city money to plan several new soft-surface mountain biking trails on public lands in and around Glenwood Springs, including in the South Canyon area. The LoVa trail is seen as a critical link to access that trail system in the future.
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