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Trails summit brings region’s leaders together

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – The communities and counties of the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys need to join together to fashion a regional trails system that can attract tourists and boost the area’s economy.

That was the conclusion for about 80 people attending at the 2012 Regional Trails, Biking and Walking Summit held at the Glenwood Springs Community Center on Friday.

Participants spent some time describing the roughly 80 miles of trails that already exist in the area, built by a combination of tax revenues, government action, and dedicated volunteer labor.



But more trails are needed, the participants generally agreed.

“Building trails creates jobs,” said Aleks Briedis, recreation director for the City of Rifle and a candidate for a seat on the Garfield Board of County Commissioners.



He suggested that, in applying for grants from government and private sources, trail-building “should be treated as a type of economic development.”

The all-day summit was sponsored by Garfield Clean Energy and a number of governments and other entities from Aspen to Parachute and beyond.

Among the speakers were trustees from different towns, Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, state officials and planning consultants.

The main theme of the presentations was finding a way to increase bicycling and walking and reducing the use of private automobiles.

Mike Ogburn of CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region), one of the sponsoring agencies, summed the goal of the summit up in one phrase: “Less car, clean car, clean fuel.”

That means people should drive less, but when driving is unavoidable, they should use a fuel-efficient car that runs on renewable energy systems rather than straight petroleum products.

“We’re creating a culture of biking and walking,” said Cathy Tuttle, also of CLEER.

As part of the day’s activities, tables were set up in the central room of the Community Center, where organizations handed out leaflets, brochures and other materials describing their particular part of the pro-trails mission.

Kate Collins, of Write Brain West marketing, was handing out tags for Glenwood Springs’ Downtown Parking Perks program.

In a letter to downtown business owners, Collins explained that the Perks effort is “a cash-equivalent incentive program” meant to help ease parking problems between May 1 and the fall of 2013, when two blocks of downtown Glenwood Springs will be under construction.

The program is primarily aimed at convincing commuting workers to leave their cars in outlying parking lots and riding bicycles or walking to work in the center of town, she explained.

In doing so, Collins wrote, commuters will help ensure that two-hour parking is readily available for visitors, shoppers and diners.

In return for taking part in the Perks program, Collins said, commuters will be eligible for up to $1,000 worth of coupons redeemable at participating downtown businesses.

At the summit, speakers addressed a variety of issues, including a need for increased tourism and a resultant boost in sales tax revenues to help pay for trails construction.

That is coupled with a need for stepped up marketing to bring more tourists to the area.

“You’re giving these people a wonderful experience” through use of trails that already exist, said Linda Hill, a marketing consultant from Edwards.

“That trails system,” she said, “can be a driver to your area,” attracting greater numbers of tourists and generating increasing sales tax revenues that can be used, in part, to build more trails.

“We need one organization that would do the marketing, explore the gaps [in trail connections and organizational ability] and network all these groups together,” said Lisa Langer, vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Langer suggested the chambers in the region might be able to handle the task, but others suggested the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Garfield County as organizations with the staff and expertise to take on the effort.

But one participant was concerned that Garfield County, at least, is not interested.

“It wasn’t that long ago,” said Dieter Martini of Carbondale, “that Garfield County announced, ‘We’re not in the tourism business.'”

He suggested that citizens should put pressure on the county to take an active part in the trails planning effort.

“It’s about time that Garfield County get its act together and get with the program,” Martini said.

Langer said towns and counties “could go it alone. But it’s really difficult to be that lone voice.”

The better option, she said, is for those at the summit to continue to discuss and plan together, and to reach out to others who might help.

“Yes, if you build it they will come,” she said, quoting a famous line from the movie, “Field of Dreams.”

“But we need to work out how to get them [tourists] to recognize what we have here,” she continued.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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