New section of the Rio Grande Trail opens |

New section of the Rio Grande Trail opens

Transportation Responsibility & YouSabrina Harris

This past weekend, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) proudly opened the newest paved portion of the Rio Grande Trail. With the completion of the Catherine Store Bridge to Hooks Lane stretch of trail that passes near the Rock Bottom Ranch, the Roaring Fork Valley now has 33 miles of continuous multi-use trail. As soon as the Pitkin County portion of the trail between Emma Lane and Wingo Junction is paved and re-opened, it will be possible to bike from Carbondale to upvalley communities completely protected from vehicular traffic. The Rio Grande Trail is a “Rails to Trails” project, which is being constructed in the Aspen Branch of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) corridor. RFTA plans to complete paving the trail between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs in 2010. Reaching this milestone will be the result of more than a decade of regional collaboration and hard work on the part of many individuals and organizations. The valley first started discussing the purchase of the Rio Grande right of way in the early 1990s at meetings of the Roaring Fork Forum. In 1997, the portion of the D&RGW between Glenwood Springs and Woody Creek Junction became available for purchase as the result of the merger of the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. On June 30, 1997, the D&RGW right-of-way corridor was purchased for $8.5 million, with funding contributed by local governments, Great Outdoors Colorado, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, and Colorado Department of Transportation. Additionally, the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority (RFRHA) was established to manage the corridor. The purchase of this right of way presented an opportunity to develop transportation and trail alternatives to Highway 82 congestion and trail connectivity challenges facing the Roaring Fork Valley. A key step in making the trail a reality occurred in November 2000, when the region formed a transportation authority (RFTA). This created a dedicated funding source for transit and trails. Before RFTA came into existence, RFRHA managed the trail-planning project, incorporating input from citizens valleywide. In 2001, RFRHA was merged into RFTA and, since then, the RFTA board and staff have been working diligently to get the trail completed and open to the public.Now that the trail corridor is open, come out and enjoy the rural, mountainous landscape in which the newest stretch of trail is embedded. The Roaring Fork River, private property and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands adjacent to the trail provide abundant habitat for a variety of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, smaller mammals and birds. To preserve existing conditions and minimize impacts on wildlife and sensitive habitat, RFTA will provide long-term management of the trail. This will include a seasonal closure of the trail between Rock Bottom Ranch and Catherine Store Bridge from Dec. 1 until May 1 each year. Additionally, no dogs will be allowed on the trail between Rock Bottom Ranch and Catherine Store. Although dogs will be allowed on the remainder of trail, they must be leashed at all times. To protect the wildlife and to enable everyone to enjoy this spectacular stretch of trail, trail users are asked that they please do their part by observing the trail rules and regulations. For more information on RFTA’s Wildlife & Ecological Resources Management Plan, trails rules and regulations on the Rio Grande Trail corridor, visit and click on Trails; e-mail; or call 384-6437.Sabrina Harris is transportation manager for the city of Glenwood Springs.

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