Mountain bikers ride under the watchful eye of the Twin Buttes west of town. The new system is on a mixture of public and private land, including 580 acres of open space owned by the city and dedicated open space that is part of the Twin Buttes development./Courtesy photo

Taking the twins for a ride

City sanctions 10 miles of new singletrack at Twin Buttes
by Missy Votel

The wait is finally over – at least officially. Last week, the City of Durango threw open the welcome gates for the Twin Buttes trail system west of town. A formal dedication ceremony is planned for Sat., Sept. 22 in the Twin Buttes West Meadow.
Getting there

Although people have been enjoying the 10 miles of new trails for months, the city could not officially open it to the public until rights of way and access issues were worked out with the Colorado Department of Transportation. CDOT was not the only entity involved in the creation of the new trail system. In fact, the completion marks the culmination of seven years of work on behalf of multiple players, including Trails 2000, Twin Buttes developers and the City of Durango, as well as more than 1,200 hours of volunteer trail-building.

“Everybody made a tremendous effort. It really is an amazing accomplishment,” said Twin Buttes developer Eric Flora.

The trails are located on a mixture of public and private land, including 580 acres of open space owned by the City as well as dedicated open space that is part of the Twin Buttes development. According to Flora, he and landowners, the Pauls family, wanted to make open space and trails a big component of the development.

“Open space has always been a vision,” he said. But that vision took some patience.

“Seven years ago, we met with the City and (City Planning Director) Greg Hoch to come up with what the city’s priorities were,” said Flora.

At the time, the Pauls’ 1,000-acre tract, though not part of the city, was included in the City Comprehensive Plan’s future “Urbanization Area.” The same parcel, however, was also outlined in the City’s 2001 Parks, Open Space and Master Plan as possessing desirable open space qualities.
Jon and Jane Westrup take in the well-deserved views from atop the Upper Twin Buttes trail./Photo by Missy Votel

Despite a year of contentious debate over density, an agreement was reached in 2006 to allow for building on the lower, flatter flanks of the Buttes. The Twin Buttes development gained preliminary approval and was annexed into the city in 2009. Durango City Council inked the final approval on the clustered 600-unit development in March 2011. During that time, there were several land acquisitions on the part of the City and the developers, including 289 acres bought by the city for $1 million in 2011 as well as 291 acres that the Pauls donated to the city that same year.
“It took a lot of patience – seven years and just as many land purchases,” said Flora. “It didn’t happen overnight.”

Among the key players in bringing the trails to fruition was City Natural Lands, Trails and Sustainability Director Kevin Hall as well as Trails 2000, specifically Executive Director Mary Monroe and volunteer trail builder extraordinaire Daryl Crites.

“Daryl is like Picasso when it comes to trails,” said Hall. “We just give him the parameters and let him do his thing.”

Part of the trail system, which makes an upper   and lower loop around the Buttes, follows an old railroad grade. The rest was mapped out using GPS, with an eye toward creating a sustainable trail with the4    least possible impact on wildlife. “We did an entire wildlife plan for the trails, identifying sensitive areas,” said Flora.

To that end, there will be seasonal closures of some of the higher trails for wintering deer and elk as well as closures during calving season.
Like Hall, Flora also gives accolades to Crites, calling him the “unsung hero” for not only surveying the area, but laying out and installing the trails.
Monroe said Trails 2000 secured a grant to rent a machine to help Crites build the trails. Although the cuts may seem wide at first, they will eventually grow in to look just like any other singletrack. “People who use the trail won’t even be able to tell,” she said. “You can have a low impact if you have someone in there who knows what they’re doing.”

So far, the consensus is overwhelmingly positive, with the trails encompassing everything from flowy Phil’s Worldesque whoop-dees to tight switchbacks, Dry Fork like cruises through thick forest and expansive trail-top views.

Flora said word has gotten out, with the trails and trailhead seeing more and more usage. “We couldn’t be happier to have it so well used and enjoyed,” he said.

Nevertheless, things are far from being completed, with trail tweaking and enhancements ongoing. “We’re constantly improving things,” he said. “We’ll be working a lot more on the interior trails next year.”

There are also plans to build trails within the actual Twin Buttes development itself, which is starting to sell its first phase of 139 units this fall. The plan is to make the development bike accessible for people to get back and forth from town as well as offer live/work options, retail and office space, a farm-to-table restaurant and a transit center. “We want the whole Twin Buttes development to embrace the bike heritage and culture,” said Flora. “Ultimately, we want it to be a bicycle community totally connected to Durango to get people out of their cars and onto bicycles.”

And while the most immediate plans call for a hard-surface trail from the development to town, long range, the possibility of connecting the Twin Buttes to Overend Mountain Park and Lightner Creek also are being explored.

“It’ll take some work,” said Monroe, referring to not just logistical but bureaucratic challenges.

In the meantime, after a summer getting buffed out and prime riding season upon us, there’s perhaps no better time to sample Durango’s newest singletrack sensation.

“Eric had a vision from the beginning,” said Monroe. “And with really great partners like the City and Daryl Crites, the master trail designer, it was the perfect potion.”


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