Town of New Castle starts construction for new trail system

Construction began recently on nearly 9 miles of trails on Burning Mountain near New Castle.

Spearheaded by the New Castle Trails Group, the plan is to construct 8.9 miles of single-track trails on Burning Mountain, which flanks New Castle’s western border. The new system is called the Burning Mountain Trail Project.

Future phases of the trail system could potentially connect to Silt and Rifle.

Estimated total cost for the project is $200,000, with the town of New Castle chipping in $40,000 and Garfield County another $10,000. An additional $90,000 is coming in from a fundraiser and a substantial donation made by the Catena/Walton Family Foundation.

Discussions over the possibility of creating this new trail began in 2018, and in January the New Castle Town Council approved a license agreement for its construction.

A small section of the proposed trail also crosses over Garfield Re-2 school district property at Elk Creek Elementary School. Using this property, the New Castle Trails Group also wants to establish a trailhead parking area, seasonal restrooms and appropriate signage.

Accordingly, New Castle officials and trail volunteers have for months been in discussions with Re-2 school district officials over drafting an easement agreement, according to city documents.

During a regularly scheduled Garfield Re-2 school board meeting Wednesday, however, district representatives requested more time to confer with the district lawyer before making a decision.

“We do have a responsibility to make sure we make an informed decision,” board president Meriya Stickler said. “There was a breakdown in the process of the timeline.”

This meant there was a possibility the New Castle Trail Group wasn’t going to hit its planned start date of May 1.

“We really want an early May start date,” New Castle Trails Group representative Graham Riddile said. “(New Castle) will take a risk and liability beyond that.”

New Castle Trails Group member Adam Cornely said the more time needed to discuss legal matters over the proposed trail could interfere with the planning process.

“We were here two weeks ago — which is great — and we’re happy to come back. But if turnaround times with attorneys are slow and then a week turns into two and then three — we need to plan ahead,” he said. “We can’t just call our trail builder and say start right now. These things take time.”

But all was not lost Wednesday as both parties were able to come to a temporary agreement. After a few back-and-forths as to why both parties weren’t on the same page, the board approved granting a temporary easement.

Meanwhile, the board said they would make an official approval for the easement during a special meeting slated for May 4.

“We’re ready to start building,” Cornely said.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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