‘Quite the buzz in the community’ over new trail plan, Parachute town manager tells Garfield County Commission
A major focus Parachute identified in its most recent comprehensive planning efforts is a need to bolster the town’s local trails system.
This led to the creation of what’s now called the 2022 Trails Plan, which highlights a proposal to build a labyrinth of trails connecting residents to some of the most breathtaking spots surrounding the gateway of the Grand Valley.
Funded by a $50,000 grant through Garfield County, Parachute and Battlement Mesa are specifically trying to link residents to places like Mt. Callahan and Parachute Island. The goal with this is so residents and visitors don’t have to tow recreational and off-road vehicles and instead can simply drive them directly to any given trailhead from lodging and residences.
Parachute is one of just two towns in Garfield County that legally allows people to drive off-road vehicles on city streets.
Presenting to the Garfield County Commission on Monday, Parachute Town Manager Travis Elliot highlighted future site plans to interconnect existing trails to trailheads at Community Park, Parachute Island, Mt. Callahan, Turkey Trail Park and more.
“We’re really at an exciting point in this planning process,” Elliot said. “(There’s) quite the buzz in the community.”
Parachute kicked off its comprehensive planning efforts in 2021 and the plan was adopted earlier in 2022. Planning documents show next steps to launching the new trail system consist of holding stakeholder meetings early next year and releasing a public draft of the plan by February 2023.
“This isn’t going to be just a plan that sits on the shelf,” Elliot said. “We’re very eager and excited to get to work as soon as next year, whatever that project may be.”
The trails themselves vary in shape, size and specific use. They’re set to accommodate high-traffic and rural areas, as well as natural surfaces.
Landscape architect and project manager Kris Valdez said on Monday the town has so far to date drafted a trail assessment, vision statement goals, future trail alignment and trail design standards. Those standards are based on Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Colorado Department of Transportation standards.
Valdez and Elliot also discussed negotiating trail easements wherever and whenever needed, current property ownership and an online trail survey asking residents to offer their opinions on what they’d like to see.
“One of the things that we heard in the survey is equestrian use,” she said. “We actually changed the standards based on that survey to modify for equestrian.”
County commissioners responded by asking where in Parachute, Battlement Mesa and its surrounding landscape trails and trailheads can be most feasible. For instance, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky was interested to see if Parachute could actually build a trail all the way to the summit of Mt. Callahan.
“Right now, I believe it is possible,” Valdez said. “Anything is possible, if you can engineer it. But is it plausible? That’s something that we have to study.”
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