Rio Grande Trail could win national recognition
One of the Roaring Fork Valley’s finest outdoor resources could gain national recognition this month thanks to a contest put on by a Washington, D.C.-based trails organization.
The Rails to Trails Conservancy has chosen the Rio Grande Trail as one of five possible inductees into the organization’s Hall of Fame. Beginning today, fans of the popular 42-mile trail that runs along the Roaring Fork River from Aspen to Glenwood Springs can go to the RTC’s website, http://www.railstotrails.org, and vote for it, said Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program.
“It’s all about recognition for a great resource in this valley,” Tennenbaum said.
The vote is part of a celebration of RTC’s 30th anniversary and will feature the organization’s 30th Hall of Fame Trail, said Laura Stark, a writer with RTC who is spearheading the contest. Previously, RTC employees chose the Hall of Fame winners, she said, but officials wanted the public to pick this year’s winner.
The Rio Grande Trail will compete with other trails built within former rail corridors in Oregon, New York, Tennessee and South Carolina, Stark said.
County officials are planning to put the word out to area residents to vote for the Rio Grande Trail, Tennenbaum said.
“We’re going against [trails] with a much larger population base,” he said. “I hope the passion of the Roaring Fork Valley will be enough to put [the Rio Grande Trail] over the top.”
The trail follows the route of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, which competed with the Midland Railroad in the late 1800s to build a rail line to Aspen’s silver mines, Tennenbaum said. The official Rio Grande Trail began in 1997 when local governments, Great Outdoors Colorado, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails and the Colorado Department of Transportation bought the route for $8.3 million, he said.
Stark said an RTC staff committee whittled approximately 2,000 nationwide rail trails to the five choices offered in the voting.
“It was such a hard choice to narrow them down,” she said. “[But the Rio Grande Trail] is such an amazing trail. For scenery, it doesn’t get any better than the Rocky Mountains, so it rose to the top pretty quickly.”
In addition to the natural beauty and the trail’s long length, other things staff members liked about it were that it connects communities throughout the valley and acts as a major trail connector as well, Stark said.
Colorado features 35 rail trails, but if the Rio Grande Trail succeeds in winning the contest, it will be the state’s first in the RTC’s Hall of Fame, Stark said.
The voting will last until June 15, and the winner will be announced the following day, she said.
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