The new Montezuma County Recreation Advisory Committee began to visualize the potential of proposed multiuse trails in the area at its first meeting Wednesday.
Nine members represent a variety of users, including cyclists, equestrians, hikers and motorcyclists. Among the group are professional planners, builders, fundraising experts and government insiders.
“We brought you in for some extra horsepower so we can generate ideas and long-term momentum for these and other projects,” said James Dietrich, natural resources director for the county.
The group, which was conceived to speed on current recreation plans, brainstormed ideas on fundraising and problem solving.
At the forefront are three proposals:
The 17-mile, nonmotorized Paths to Mesa Verde Trail from Cortez to Mancos.A new motorized route from Sage Hen on existing roads that would tie in with the Rimrocker Trail from Montrose to Moab.Addressing ways to create public access to a swath of BLM land south of Summit Lake hemmed in by private land.Paths to Mesa VerdePlanning has been underway since 2015 and is 30 percent complete. It was funded by a $300,000 grant from the federal Transportation Alternative Program and $100,000 from Mancos, Cortez and Montezuma County.
The first leg is the 6 miles from Mancos to Mesa Verde National Park along the Colorado Department of Transportation right of way on U.S. Highway 160.
Public surveys preferred the trail traverse open-space away from the highway, but landowners in the Mancos area have opposed easement negotiations.
“Beginning on the Mancos side makes sense. The only route left open is the highway right of way,” Dietrich said.
Landowners along the stretch from Cortez to Mesa Verde are more amenable to ongoing easement negotiations, officials said.
An additional $270,000 is needed to complete preliminary planning and design, so focus can switch to an initial construction phase.
The town of Mancos is applying for $120,000 in grants from Great Outdoors Colorado, Department of Local Affairs and Atmos Energy Corp. If the grants are approved, another $150,000 will need to be raised by Cortez and Montezuma County.
Besides initial design and planning, the project must also go through the National Environmental Policy Act process because the trail uses a federal highway corridor and crosses federal lands, including Mesa Verde National Park.
CDOT, the gatekeeper for the trail, prefers a concrete path because it lasts longer, said committee member Kathryn Fulton. To accommodate equestrians, design should include an adjacent natural surface and alternative horse routes, added committee member Tiff Rodriguez.
“Seeking commercial sponsors is one option to consider for fundraising,” suggested committee member Roger Lawrence.
Partnering with other community groups, such as Montezuma Inspire Coalition, could also help the project, said an audience member.
Rimrocker spurThis all-use trail idea proposes to link Montezuma County with the motorized Rimrocker Trail from Montrose to Moab.
For the first leg, planners hope to persuade the San Juan National Forest to allow motorized use on one trail in the Sage Hen area and on an existing maintenance road that descends to a bridge across the Dolores River below McPhee Dam.
From there, signs would direct users along back roads and motorized trails to Montrose and the Rimrocker Trail.
“The potential for this massive trail ride is a real economic opportunity,” said committee member Brett Grubbs. “This kind of adventure tourism would be a huge deal and benefit Dolores, Cortez and Dove Creek.”
Summit Lake BLM landHow to gain public access to BLM land south of Summit Lake surrounded by private property is another challenge for the committee. The county recently affirmed a public road to a potential access site, but a survey revealed there is a 1-foot-wide strip of private land between the county road easement and the BLM land that blocks access.
One idea was to raise money to offer the landowner for an easement. If the property were for sale, it could be purchased, an easement put in, then put back on the market.
The potential for public access on the southern side of the BLM parcel from the Cedar Mesa subdivision could also be analyzed, group members said.
MCRAC members are: Sean Gregory, Robert Walden, Latifa Rodriguez, Kathryn Fulton, Brett Grubbs, Paul Crook, Roger Lawrence, Mark Drudge and Susan Thomas. Alternates are Abigail Lock and Cap Allen. The group plans to form subcommittees to focus on different aspects of local recreation plans. Their next meeting is Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Montezuma County commissioner meeting room.