Avalanche damage delays Fremont Pass recreation path project | AspenTimes.com

Avalanche damage delays Fremont Pass recreation path project

Deepan Dutta
Summit Daily
A view of an avalanche path from Highway 91, just south of Copper Mountain. This avalanche path crossed the intended project area for the Fremont Pass recreation path, taking down power lines and depositing heavy debris. The damage has forced the project to be delayed a year.
Courtesy of Summit County Open Space & Trails

It’s taken a while, but the full extent of the damage done to public property caused by last month’s historic avalanche event in Summit County is starting to come into clearer view. The county announced Thursday that the much-anticipated Fremont Pass recreation path project has been delayed until 2020 due to avalanche damage to utilities and debris strewn across the project path.

The new stretch of recpath, which would bypass a narrow stretch of Highway 91 going past Copper Mountain into Leadville along Fremont Pass, was supposed to be built this year. It would be the first portion of a planned 21-mile non-motorized path that would link Summit and Lake counties, running by the Climax mine and avoiding passage over an industrial highway often hazardous to cyclists.

However, the massive amount of snow and debris that came down with slides along the corridor took out numerous Xcel power lines and associated infrastructure, causing a shift in priorities to utility repair before path construction can begin.

“This is a disappointing setback for the project,” Summit County Open Space and Trails director Brian Lorch said. “However, we understand the need to postpone construction to address utility damage along the alignment.”

Lorch said that Xcel, instead of repairing the downed power lines, will look to bury them underground to avoid future avalanche or storm damage. However, the lines would need to be buried along the same stretch of the planned recpath alignment. To avoid entanglement with Xcel’s construction plans in the future, the current plan is to bury the lines first before beginning path construction.

“Aside from snow, there is significant other debris that needs to be cleared, including large trees and rocks and whatever else came down with those slides,” said Jason Lederer, a senior resource specialist for the county. “Our schedule was for bids to go out in April, now we’re looking at fall. That will give the contractor more time to get ready for the project and hit the ground running next year.”

The county anticipated there would be some damage and project delays due to the avalanches last month. It has been slow-going trying to survey for other damage to the recpath network due to the massive amount of debris and still-precarious nature of the unstable snowpack.

“We’re going to have to see what else happened, but we’re not sure when we’ll be able to get there,” Lederer said. “We still have to inspect bridges and pavement in certain areas; we’ll have to see.”

Lederer added that his department is still aiming to open the Ten Mile Canyon recpath by Memorial Day, despite avalanches along Vail Pass and Interstate 70 last month. However, that is still just a goal, and plans may change as the conditions warrant.

Lederer added that the department is still going ahead with several other smaller recpath projects this summer. That includes projects near Swan Mountain Road near the water treatment plant in Farmers Korner, as well as improvements to the bike paths and lanes in Summit Cove, where room is often constrained for cyclists.