Paths to Mesa Verde makes governor’s priority list

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 6:37 PM
Journal/Sam Green ¬ Mary Dishman and Josh Coffin prepare to ride at Phil's World Friday afternoon. "If you can't go ski, you might as well come out here and ride your bike," Coffin said.
Sam Green/Cortez Journal File ¬ Racers in the Twelve Hours of Mesa Verde ride down the road at Phil's World this year in May.
Map of proposed area for the Paths to Mesa Verde trail between Cortez and Mancos.

The proposed Paths to Mesa Verde — a multimodal trail connecting Cortez, Mesa Verde National Park and Mancos — made Gov. John Hickenlooper’s 16 most important trail projects for 2016.

“We’ve identified projects that will help us fulfill the vision of Colorado the Beautiful, and create the kinds of connections that link us to the natural splendor that sets our state apart,” Hickenlooper said.

Great Outdoors Colorado is investing $30 million in trails over the next four years as part of its Connect Initiative that will improve walkable and bikeable paths and trails across the state. Qualifying projects must apply for the grants, and the first $10 million will be awarded in 2016.

“This recognition puts us in a good position for funding,” said James Dietrich, community development planner for Montezuma County.

The Paths to Mesa Verde project would provide 16 miles of multimodal linkages between Mancos, Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez High School, Southwest Colorado Community College, Phil’s World mountain bike trails system, and the Montezuma County fairgrounds.

In 2014 public meetings were held to gather local input on the trail and the proposal received positive feedback. Also in 2014, a $400,000 planning grant was awarded for the trail from the Colorado Department of Transportation. Montezuma County and Cortez each contributed $40,000 towards a match, and Mancos kicked in $20,000.

Montezuma County commissioners were pleased to make the state’s 16 projects for 2016.

“This proposed project has grown out of a grass roots community effort that has been in the works for several years and has great potential to improve the lives and economy of citizens in Montezuma County as well as improve the experience for visitors from all over the nation and world who come to Mesa Verde National Park,” commissioners Larry Don Suckla, Keenan Ertel and James Lambert said in a statement.

The Mancos Board of Trustees also expressed its support of the trail, and noted cooperative effort between Mancos, Cortez, Montezuma County, the BLM, CDOT and Mesa Verde National Park to move it forward.

“It has support from all levels of government, and is supported by residents who bike, walk, run and otherwise seek an authentic outdoor Colorado trail experience,” the Mancos board said in a statement.

The “16 in 2016” initiative was created to start a more focused effort promote outdoor recreation across Colorado.

Projects were selected based on several criteria, including their economic development potential, their proximity to underserved communities, the need for new paved and natural surface multi-use trails, the potential for greater partnerships across all levels of government, nonprofits and the private sector, and the project’s ability to support environmental stewardship.

Most of the selected projects have been under development for years and already benefit from local support and partnerships. Some trail projects are larger and will need significant additional investment; others are more localized and need a push to get over the finish line.

Hickenlooper said moving these projects forward means a better connected network of trails statewide that offer safe alternative transportation routes for adjacent communities.

“We need the kind of outdoor access that more easily brings all of us – especially our young people – into the fresh air and away from indoor distractions,” Hickenlooper said. “Getting more Coloradans outdoors more often is good for our health and a refreshing reminder of how fortunate we are to live in Colorado.”

To find out more go to