Summit covers regional trails funding | PostIndependent.com
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Summit covers regional trails funding

Donna GrayPost Independent Staff

Imagine a regional trail system from Glenwood Springs to Aspen, from Glenwood Springs west to the Mesa County line, and from Carbondale up the Crystal Valley all the way to Crested Butte.That was the vision presented at the 2005 Regional Trails Summit, “The Future of our Regional Trail System, Economic Benefits and Implementation,” on Friday at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. Trails advocates, 140 strong, heard how a broad network of trails can work for the three river valleys in the region. The Three Rivers Regional Trails System will branch out to the Colorado, Roaring Fork and Crystal river valleys, and much of the network is already in place, said presenter Ralph Trapani.Trapani, who styled himself as a “recovering highway engineer,” and is in fact retired from the Colorado Department of Transportation where he supervised Interstate 70 construction through Glenwood Canyon, said trails connect communities and have a measurable economic benefit.And biking is big business. Trapani would know as he is married to former Olympic bicyclist Jeanne Golay.”There are three million bikes in Colorado, and bikers ride 5.6 million miles a month,” he said.Biking opportunities are also a big draw for visitors to Glenwood Springs. In fact, 12 percent of the city’s visitors are bikers, compared to the 13 percent of visitors who come to the area to ski, Trapani added.The area already has its share of world-class biking and hiking trails, with the Glenwood Canyon bike path as arguably the jewel in the crown of regional trails.But the vision of the summit was to bring together proponents of trails to ensure a regional system can be funded and constructed.Local volunteer groups are at work to make the regional system happen. The Lower Valley Trails Group has a vision for a trail from Glenwood Springs west to the Garfield County line, Trapani said. It has already secured much of the funding for the first segment that will run along I-70 in South Canyon just west of Glenwood.Trapani said that segment is expected to be completed in 2007.LoVa also has its sights on land at the I-70 rest area in Rifle. It would like to construct two miles of trail along the Colorado River.In Pitkin County, the Rio Grande Trail is now virtually complete between Basalt and Aspen.One problematic section that has been eyed for a continuation of the Rio Grande Trail is between Catherine Store and Carbondale on County Road 100.That 10.5-mile portion could be completed if the former railroad line is torn up to make way for a trail. But some have lobbied to keep the rails in place for a future train.”To me the one concern is the condition of the rail and can we put a train on it,” Trapani said. A federal rail inspector decreed that a train imported from Europe in the mid-90s to test the possibility of a commuter train between Glenwood Springs and Aspen was not allowed to go faster than 20 mph because of the poor condition of the track, Trapani said.”Based on our studies of the rail above Carbondale, it’s in pretty tough shape and you couldn’t run a train at all,” he said. “If that’s the case, why should we preserve rail at all. I think we have to be realistic about it.”Also on the radar screen is a trail following Highway 133 through the Crystal River Valley. Trapani said it could eventually connect Carbondale and Crested Butte. Carbondale has already constructed a trail from the intersection of highways 82 and 133, down 133 to the turnoff to Roaring Fork High School.Tim Young, a trails designer from Jackson, Wyo., spoke about his bicycle travels around the world and his efforts to build a regional trail system in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park.”Great trails require great attention to detail,” he said. Some of those details should include “way-finding” and interpretive signs, and places to rest like pocket parks. And they should be designed for use in all seasons.”Trails connect us to the natural environment and help preserve some of our natural settings,” Young said.They also connect people with each other, from one community to another, he said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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