Rifle receives financial support for trail project
Efforts to make Rifle more bike- and pedestrian-friendly have received vital support in the form of a Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District grant for the Rifle Creek Trail, as well as continued support from county commissioners for the Rifle boat ramp and trail project.
The $128,252 FMLD grant will help fill in part of a gap stretching from Ninth Street to City Market. The city is still working on obtaining an easement for a segment of the trail between 11th and Ninth streets.
However, with the FMLD grant and a 100 percent match coming out of the city’s street fund, the city should be able to complete the stretch from 11th Street to City Market, said Rifle Planning Manager Nathan Lindquist. Additional money is being considered in the 2016 budget in the event the city obtains the remaining easement.
The Rifle Creek Trail, which currently runs from Third to Ninth streets and from City Market to Deerfield Park, is a crucial pathway in the city’s overall bike and pedestrian plans. With schools and parks located directly next to or near the trail, Lindquist said it is vital for providing a safe option for walking and biking.
“This was the No. 1 project … that’s essentially the spine of the community,” he said of the trail, which runs along the west bank of the Rifle Creek. “Really it goes near just about every part of town.”
Ideally, the city would start accepting bids in the spring of 2016. Even if the remaining easement is not obtained in the near future, the completion of the trail from City Market to 11th Street would be a great improvement, Lindquist added.
In addition to the trail project, Rifle received a $101,500 FMLD grant for maintenance at Jackson Heights, and Garfield County’s other municipalities also received support in the fall FMLD grant cycle, which totaled $1.8 million in grants and mini-grants.
New Castle was awarded the largest grant, $462,000 for public roadway improvements, along with a $25,000 mini-grant for improvements to the community center. Silt received $213,770 for improvements to the south side of Main Street and $24,000 for upgrades to the wastewater electrical system, while Parachute received $300,000 for utility line relocation and $25,000 for radar and school speed signs.
The announcement of the grant winners on Oct. 21 came two days after Rifle city officials appeared before the county commissioners to update the board on the Rifle boat ramp and trail project.
Rifle representatives met with commissioners in September to request $160,077 from the county to construct a new boat ramp upstream from the current location directly next to the Highway 13 bridge over the Colorado River.
The money would come from the county’s conservation trust fund, which is funded by Colorado Lottery proceeds. The trust fund has funded similar infrastructure projects, including improvements to the Silt pedestrian trail underneath Interstate 70 earlier this year.
At the September meeting, Rifle officials did not include the cost for a planned trail running along the Colorado River from Highway 13 to the rest area parking lot because the emphasis was on completing the boat ramp as fast as possible.
The city hoped to avoid complications from future changes, including a planned 2017 change in the Army Corps of Engineers permitting process.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, while supporting the boat ramp request, asked the city in September to come back with estimates for the trail, with the hope that the county could fund both elements of the project.
Appearing before the commissioners on Oct. 19, Lindquist said the 3,040-foot, soft-surface trail would likely cost $61,169 — bringing the total cost of the request to $221,247.
Backers of the project have raised $67,000 through contributions and a $30,000 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife that was awarded earlier this year.
As was the case at the September meeting, commissioners voiced support for the boat ramp project. The county still has to approve its budget before officially awarding funding for the project, but Jankovsky and Commissioner John Martin noted that there was funding for the project in the proposed 2016 conservation trust fund budget.
With $190,000 projected in revenue for 2016 and a current balance in excess of $200,000, County Finance Director Ann Driggers told commissioners during an Oct. 20 budget hearing that the Rifle project was fully budgeted for 2016.
Funding awarded from the county would add to what has been a robust year for pedestrian infrastructure in Rifle.
Earlier this year, the city completed the connector segment of the Rifle Creek Trail by Mancinelli’s Pizza on Railroad Avenue, and sidewalk installation on Whiteriver Avenue.
A grant of about $60,000 was awarded from the Department of Local Affairs for sidewalk on Howard Avenue — a project that Lindquist expects to start in 2016 — and completion of the Morrow Drive Trail, which is being built by the Rifle Area Mountain Biking Organization, is expected in the coming weeks.
“We started getting some momentum,” Lindquist said of the recent projects.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.