LoVa demo trail moving forward
September 13, 2007
GLENWOOD SPRINGS Construction of what might be called LoVa Lite – make that Super-Lite – could occur next year after recent government approvals to kick off the trail project.The Lower Valley Trails Group, or LoVa, expects to be able to go out to bid this fall on plans to build some 540 feet of trail in West Glenwood. It’s a small start to a trail project that supporters want to build along Interstate 70 to South Canyon, where cyclists now must ride on the interstate. Eventually, LoVa wants to extend the trail farther west, all the way to the Mesa County line.On Monday, Garfield County commissioners approved proceeding with the short initial trail segment, after the Glenwood Springs City Council gave its assent last week.Both governments previously had committed funding to LoVa, but with the understanding that it would be building a longer stretch. However, it was forced to downsize plans due to continuing increases in construction costs.It’s now planning an abbreviated route following the north bank of the Colorado River along the West Glenwood Sanitation District property. The goal is to provide a demonstration project to give the public and potential funding sources a taste of the kind of trail LoVa is planning to build, to generate some confidence in the project, and also to get one of the most technically challenging and expensive stretches of trail completed. LoVa executive director Larry Dragon said the stretch will require high walls.The trail also will tie in to a stretch of Glenwood Springs trail. The city is planning to build a bridge over Mitchell Creek to link the two.The sanitation district donated the easement for the trail.The trail stretch is partly in the city and partly in the county, but the county will maintain it. That concerned county Commissioner Larry McCown, who voted against the project in part because he feared the county could be held liable for doing work in city limits. He said the county also has made no budgeting provision for paying for maintenance.”That’s going to have to come out of a magic fund that’s yet to be created,” he said.City Council voted unanimously for the project, although council member Larry Beckwith raised concerns about its continually escalating costs.LoVa originally had hoped to build a trail from West Glenwood to the South Canyon Interstate 70 exit for about $1.5 million, but by the time it went out to bid the cost estimate had risen to $3.9 million. LoVa then decided to focus on building an initial mile of trail from West Glenwood toward South Canyon, at a hoped-for cost of about $2.7 million.When that cost rose above $3 million, county commissioners balked at paying even more. The cost overruns forced LoVa to forfeit a $1.25 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant and focus on trying to at least build several hundred feet of trail with other funding.Dragon said the only administrative hurdle remaining before the project can go out to bid is for the city and county to amend their agreement on the trail to reflect the change in the project’s scope. He expects that to occur within a month.He said next year’s work probably would be completed within six months at the most.Because the trail is not on Colorado Department of Transportation right of way, LoVa doesn’t need to use a CDOT “prime” contractor to build it, Dragon said. As a result, it’s open to local contractors and that could result in a lower bid.After so much planning, Dragon is looking forward to finally seeing some trail built, even if it’s such a short amount.”It certainly will demonstrate to CDOT and GOCO that the county and community are committed,” he said.Glenwood Springs correspondent Pete Fowler contributed to this report.