Red Mountain trail work delayed; plan proceeds with first phase
Work could begin yet this fall on a plan to upgrade existing single-track trails and start work on a series of new mountain biking and hiking trails on Red Mountain, though project supporters are working through some scheduling delays.
Glenwood Springs City Council earlier this year committed $50,000 toward the first phase of the project that is included as part of a larger “soft trails” master plan for the area that is being put forth by the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association.
RFMBA Executive Director Mike Pritchard originally wanted to get the work started in August, but said this week he now hopes to award a contract for the trail work by the middle of September.
If that happens, some of the planned trail improvements could be constructed in October, he said.
Regardless, the project is shovel-ready whether it happens this fall or has to wait until the trails dry next spring, Pritchard indicated this week.
The planned Red Mountain trail improvements are part of the bigger concept plan for a broad network of single-track dirt trails in and around Glenwood Springs.
Included in the conceptual plan that was released early last year would be new trails on a combination of city and Bureau of Land Management land in South Canyon with a possible connection to Red Mountain, plus enhanced trails on Lookout Mountain east of town and a possible gravity trail park descending Iron Mountain from the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
Much of that work is several years out, and the South Canyon trail proposal is pending a historical and archaeological assessment of the area before the city will allow any trail-building in there.
In the meantime, the Red Mountain improvements have been given top priority.
“The project will utilize a combination of existing routes and newly constructed trail to provide a continuous natural surface trail that roughly parallels the Red Mountain road from the trailhead all the way up to the cross at the top of the mountain,” Pritchard wrote in a description provided to the city earlier this year.
Most of the initial work will be concentrated on building a new lower segment with more switchbacks and less-extreme grades to provide an alternative to the much steeper fall-line trail.
Existing trail links are also to be improved, and the plan involves monitoring trail use patterns to help determine which of the older trails might need to be rehabilitated, improved or potentially closed.
The total cost of the Red Mountain trail work over two construction seasons is expected to be around $86,500, according to information provided to the city in May.
The primary goal of the project is not only to provide new trail options, but to “take better care of trails already on that property,” Pritchard said during a progress report to City Council at that time.
Ongoing maintenance of the trails would also likely involve volunteer groups, such as Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, he said.
Long term, the goal is to have a more formal trail management plan for Red Mountain, the Wulfsohn trail system behind the Glenwood Springs Community Center and other trail networks in and around town.
That will also be true for the work that’s eventually planned at South Canyon.
Pritchard has been working with the city’s Historic Preservation Commission regarding concerns about avoiding disturbances to historical sites and cultural artifacts that may exist there.
“Our concern is that the proposed trail alignment runs through or in proximity to a sensitive archaeological area, namely the South Canyon Coal Camp site,” HPC Chairman Ron Carsten wrote in a recent letter to City Council.
“The Coal Camp site is important because it is a significant part of Glenwood Springs’ history,” Carsten wrote. “Interpretation of the site, and preservation of the few remnant building foundations will provide current and future generations with a tangible link to the city’s past.”
Gretchen Ricehill, senior planner for the city, said the commission had been consulting with a noted mining historian and archaeologist who was prepared to do a full assessment of the site.
However, that work has also been put off until sometime later this year or next year, Ricehill said.
Another key to the trail network would be to eventually complete the paved trail between West Glenwood and South Canyon that’s part of the Lower Valley Trail project.
Supporters of that project have been working with the city on potential grant possibilities to complete that link, but the focus more recently has been on a grant proposal to build a trail link between New Castle and the Canyon Creek area.