Trails plan combines the practical with big dreams

Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013 12:46 AM
The Proposed expansion of Riverside Park in Dolores is a big dream.

A broad vision of trails, sidewalks improvements and street crossings has been completed for Dolores by RPI Consulting, hired this summer for the study.

The detailed and comprehensive report points out missing links for sidewalks, gives solutions for dangerous intersections for pedestrians, and unveils tantalizing new trail systems and their associated costs.

“The plan is to have the board adopt the trail study and then prioritize and build sections as funds and grants come available,” said Ryan Mahoney, outgoing town manager.

The 37-page report is the result of a summer-long study that involved multiple community surveys and public meetings.

A common annoyance for pedestrians in Dolores is trying to safely cross Colorado Highway 145, which divides the town.

Improving crosswalks visibility at intersections of First Street, Fourth Street, 11th Street and 14th Street is listed as a priority.

Two options include concrete bump outs and at type of bright, rubbery paint applied in the crosswalk.

“The bump outs really increase visibility of pedestrians, and they calm traffic down through town,” said Gabe Preston, an urban planner with RPI. “What’s nice about them is they can be landscaped as well.”

More details of the coveted McPhee Overlook trail connecting Dolores with House Creek and the Boggy Draw recreation trails are laid out in the plan. The six-mile trail crosses Forest Service land and has been approved for funding.

Dolores successfully negotiated an easement with a property owner to access the rim and forest lands at a point just east of the cemetery. The plans show a trailhead with parking, a proposed restroom at a cost of $20,000 and a switchback, 3-foot wide connector trail to the rim with rock steps and water bars for $4,500.

“We’ve applied for a grant with the Southwest Conservation Youth Corps to build the connection to the rim,” Mahoney said. “It includes a substantial amount of free labor. The decision on the grant is in December.”

It was suggested that fire crews during idle times could perhaps be tapped to help. Mark Krabath, a trails steering committee member, added that “local volunteer labor for building trails should not be underestimated as well.”

Much of the trail system in the Boggy Draw mountain bike park was built by a dedicated contingent of fat-tire enthusiasts.

To further enshrine Dolores as a mountain-biking mecca, a convenient connector trail from downtown to the new nonmotorized McPhee Overlook trail is also in the plan.

An 8-foot wide trail follows along the north side of Central Avenue from the Thrift Store toward the cemetery and would cost $12,000. It keeps hikers and bikers safely separated from the frequently dusty gravel road, a popular vehicle access to McPhee Reservoir.

Riverside dreams

In addition to routine sidewalk improvements, signage, and information kiosks, big-picture plans should also dream large, and Dolores isn’t shy about future trail expansion goals.

Riverside Park is a smaller open space, that could get much larger if the stars and planets line up just right. The “passive” park is used primarily as a boater put-in and for scenic picnicking by passing tourists.

Plans show a pedestrian bridge crossing the Dolores River at Riverside Park, accessing a riparian lowland and forested bluff on the south shore that is private property.

“We debated putting it in there, but it is such a good idea we thought it was worth introducing,” Preston said.

The plan states, “This property represents an exciting opportunity for the Town of Dolores to double the size of Riverside Park and create a completely unique experience for the residents.”

The proposed expansion area is a difficult configuration with essentially two separate areas, divided by a nearly vertical 20-foot bluff. The lower, riverside portion is approximately 4 acres of grassy, open space with a light distribution of mature deciduous trees. It is inaccessible from any road.

The upper portion is heavily forested and is accessible from Merritt Way.

The plan proposes that the town work with the lot’s owner to acquire the lower portion of this property and develop it as a park expansion, leaving it in its natural pastoral state. Limited trails and park benches are shown in the schematics, and a connection could be installed along Merritt Way, creating a new loop to the River Trail.

Mahoney said the 4-acre parcel has been for sale for some time. The owners are absentee.

“I would put purchasing that land as a priority, at least get the right of first refusal first,” he said.

The expansion is visionary, and has a hefty price tag. The property purchase is unknown. The bridge is estimated to cost $500,000; the steps up to the bluff and trail connection to Merritt Way estimated at $20,000; site prep, abutments and river work estimated at $150,000.

Other parts of the plan show trails from the south side of the Fourth Street bridge to the Beach Area on the Dolores River. A pedestrian bridge from Joe Rowell Park to the beach area is in the plan as well, as is a pedestrian route from the library to Riverside Park, and a BMX track, bike park, at the McPhee Overlook trailhead.

“It is really a capital-improvement plan. It’s conceptual,” Preston said.

Tracy Murphy, a member of the Trails Steering Committee, urged the town to prioritize.

“The next step should be an implementation plan. I don’t want to see an ad-hoc approach,” she said.

The committee noted that many items in the plan, like sidewalk additions, improved crosswalks, signage, and information kiosks are affordable and can fit into the yearly budgets. Other aspects will take more long-term planning.

“It can’t interfere with our day-to-day infrastructure needs for the town,” said Dolores Mayor Val Truelsen. “The main thing is to prioritize and get things done in sequence of what we can afford.”

A community meeting on the final report is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 24. It will be presented to the Dolores Town Board on Oct. 28.