Rio Grande Trail almost complete

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
A cyclist cruises along a newly paved segment of the Rio Grande Trail outside of Glenwood Springs on Friday afternoon. The formal opening of the completed trail is planned next week. (Chad Spangler/Post Independent)

GARFIELD COUNTY The project has been ongoing for about 11 years. In about two weeks, it should be complete.Mike Hermes, director of property and trails for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, said the final touches of the Rio Grande Trail are expected to be completed some time during the week of May 19 if the weather cooperates. The soon-to-be completed asphalt trail stretches all the way from Glenwood to Woody Creek. An 11-mile soft-surface trail built by the city of Aspen can take bicyclists from that point all the way into the city.It will be great to see this in the valley, Hermes said of the Rio Grande Trails completion. I hope that it is an amenity that everyone in the (Roaring Fork Valley) enjoys.The missing piece of the Rio Grande Trail has been the section connecting County Road 114 (Colorado Mountain College Road) to Carbondale. RFTA began work on that section last October, and its cost has been pegged at $1.9 million, Hermes said.Hermes said the laying of asphalt for that unfinished five-mile section of the trail from CMC Road to Carbondale was recently completed and that crews are currently putting up signs, finishing shoulder work and completing fencing along the trail. A grand opening for the entire trail is scheduled for June 21, Hermes said.Dan Blankenship, executive director of RFTA, said he was very excited and happy about the trails completion.It is probably going to attract a significant amount of visitors who are bicycle enthusiasts as well, Blankenship said.RFTA built the trail from Glenwood Springs to the Emma schoolhouse, while Pitkin County built the trail from that location to near the Woody Creek Tavern.Some of the biggest challenges for the building of the Rio Grande Trail have included working with several local governments and dealing with wildlife issues in the Rock Bottom Ranch section of the trail, Hermes said.That last issue came to a head earlier this year, when several people wanted to close a section of the trail from Rock Bottom Ranch to Catherine Store Bridge a stretch in the midvalley, above Carbondale for longer than the current Dec. 1 to April 30 closure. However, RFTA upheld the original restriction.Every year, we have that discussion, on what we should do, Hermes said of closing the trail for wildlife. There have been challenges like any government project.Although the bike trail from CMC Road to Carbondale is not yet finished, Hermes acknowledged that some people have already begun riding on the newly laid asphalt. Signs along the soon-to-be completed section of the trail say it is closed.I wish they would respect the closure for their own safety, Hermes said.Kevin Horch, assistant manager of the Sunlight Mountain Ski & Bike Shop, said the completion of the Rio Grande Trail is an exciting change.Being able to ride from Glenwood to Aspen not on [Highway] 82 will be the best thing to our biking community since the [Glenwood Canyon Recreational] Trail was completed, he said. And going to Carbondale from Glenwood will be a fun, easy ride.


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