Linking up
Big season of trail development takes shape

SideStory: Digging in - trailwork season starts next week

The newly constructed Twin Buttes bridge off Highway 160 will eventually provide access to the development. The City of Durango has acquired almost 500 acres of open space in the development and the P.O.S.T. plans call for future trails as well as nonmotorized access to and from town./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

by Missy Votel

With winter snows all but a distant memory, local trail lovers are gearing up for another busy season in Durango.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” said Durango’s Parks Open Space and Trails Development Director Kevin Hall.

In addition to shoring up existing singletrack in and around town, the city will be completing much-needed linkages on the Animas River Trail and proceeding with plans for the Smart 160 trail to Grandview. The city will also begin working on access to the newly approved Twin Buttes development as well as a new trail network on the nearly 500 acres of open space there. The city was given 200 acres by the Pauls family this winter and purchased the adjacent 290-acre Cliffrock parcel in 2009.

“The conceptual plan is already laid out,” said Hall. “We’d like to get the trails established before the houses are built.”

Right now, plans call for one loop on the lower portion of the Buttes, encircling the houses, as well as two loops higher up on the Buttes. Hall said a lot of the singletrack will follow existing trails and old road cuts. “A lot of trail is already there, there’s already dirt and trail corridors in place,” he said.

Any trail work will be done in conjunction with Trails 2000 and its corps of volunteers. “Trails 2000 and its volunteers are eager to see it come online,” said Hall.

In addition to the trails in Twin Buttes, Hall said there are interesting possibilities to create linkages from Twin Buttes to Overend Mountain Park as well as Lightner Creek. However, he noted both of these are very preliminary and would involve working in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management as well as the Division of Wildlife to find acceptable routes.

As far as the Twin Buttes trails go, Hall cautioned local trail users that they will likely come later than sooner. “There’s no good access right now, so we’ll have to deal with those issues over the course of the year,” he said. Right now, the city is working on establishing a hard-surface trail from town to the bridge near the new gas station on Highway 160.

Glen Shoemaker bombs down the Star Wars trail in Overend Mountain Park recently. The park will soon become less of a mystery with the addition of signage and maps./Courtesy photo

On the other end of 160, the city is also making headway on Smart 160, the trail that is planned to connect Durango to Grandview and eventually Bayfield. A preliminary alignment of the trail was included in the 2010 Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Master Plan, and a few pieces of it have already been built. Last year, the Colorado Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the city, received a $1.7 million grant for design and construction of two sections of trail near Three Springs. The project also received $100,000 from La Plata County in 2009 as well as $212,000 in federal funds for engineering and easement acquisitions. “Right now, there is a lot of design work going into Smart 160, we’re tying the pieces together,” said Hall.

And speaking of missing pieces, the city will commence work on the long-awaited “mall corner” on the southern end of the Animas River Trail in coming weeks. Located behind the Durango Mall, the newest section of trail will now make it possible to travel the trails’ entire 7-mile length from 32nd Street all the way to Escalante Middle School without interruption.

As far as the ART’s northern end goes, the city is still mulling over possible routes from 32nd Street to near the Iron Horse Inn at city limits. Late last month, two more alternatives were added, “H” and “I,” bringing the total options to nine.

Alternative H would pick up on the west side of the river, near the pedestrian bridge behind the high school, and follow the railroad tracks to 32nd Street. An overpass would be built over 32nd Street and connect with the trail on the other side.

Alternative I would extend the existing trail from where it ends at 29th Street, cross the river at 31st Street and also cross 32nd Street via an overpass.

Once across 32nd, both options would link up with either Alternative A, along the west side of the river, or Alternative B, which runs along the east side of the river.

The city has delayed making a final until residents along the new routes can comment. A final decision may be made as soon as April 20, but most likely will come in May.

While the city tries to find a way north of 32nd Street, riders in Overend and Dalla mountain parks will have a much easier time of finding their way. In May, the City, Trails 2000 and Southwest Conservation Corps will be installing signs and maps on both city-owned properties. “It’s going to kind of change the feel of Overend Mountain Park, but I think it’s a good thing,” said Hall of the notoriously confusing array of trails, which were recently mapped by volunteers.

Another popular local trail will receive a minor facelift as well this spring. In advance of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic’s resurrected cross country mountain bike race, the City, along with Trails 2000, will be working on parts of the Nature Trail. Starting next week, crews will be fixing erosion issues at the 10th Street trailhead and on the lower half of the trail. “They’re going to clean it up, and fix parts of the trail and some of the stairs that are failing,” said Hall.

In addition to shoring up erosion on the Nature Trail, Hall said there are also plans to repair some of the damage that occurred in Horse Gulch as a result of last summer’s downpours. He also used that as a segue to urge local trail users, no matter how anxious they are to get out, to allow the trails to dry out before enjoying them. “We really need to get the word out to all users not to be motoring around when it’s muddy,” he said, pointing to some damage and rutting of wet trails this spring. “Everyone needs to be a little more conscious and responsible.” •



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