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Trail money has strings attached

Donna Gray

The South Canyon Trail is already developing potholes of a sort, even before it’s built.The proposed biking and hiking trail along Interstate 70 through South Canyon west of Glenwood Springs recently won a $1.2 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado. It’s also set to receive $35,000 this year from Garfield County, with $150,000 pledged over the next three years, and will get $166,000 from the Colorado Department of Transportation in fiscal year 2005.But all that money comes with some unseen strings attached. In true bureaucratic fashion, each giver will attach contractual obligations that may not mesh with the other.Garfield County Senior Long Range Planner Randy Russell pointed out some of those potential pitfalls to the county commissioners.”The South Canyon Trail Project will be complex, involving a variety of funding sources and the contracting requirements from each source, as well as an ongoing relationship with CDOT,” Russell wrote in a memo to the commissioners last week.As the administrator of the GOCO money, the county will likely be the project manager. As such, it will be responsible for maintaining the five miles of trail from West Glenwood to the Canyon Creek interchange. It will also be responsible for any liability issues that come up, Russell said.One issue Russell suggested the commissioners ask for in its contract with CDOT is that maintenance apply only to normal upkeep of the trail, not “acts of God” such as mud flows or traffic accidents that could close and block the trail and mean expensive cleanup.What also complicates the picture is the fact that CDOT will retain ownership of the portions of the trail that are actually in its right of way.That might preclude insurance coverage for the county, said county attorney Don DeFord.”It could be a large monetary liability (for major trail reconstruction) … because the county doesn’t own the property,” he said.Russell also advised the commissioners that CDOT Region 3, which oversees I-70 through Glenwood Springs, has a new policy that it manage all construction of its portion of the interstate. DeFord was also concerned that if that is the case, “It puts us in a difficult position if we’re not responsible for construction,” but answerable to GOCO about how its money is spent.Yet another layer of complication is the fact that BLM owns the land below the interstate through South Canyon, which CDOT leases from the agency. The county may have to work out its own lease agreement with BLM, which may require an environmental assessment of the trail segment, adding to the $1.8 million price tag.


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