Volunteers drive Avon trail plan
AVON — For years, a large piece of land between Avon and Singletree has been the subject of plans ranging from employee housing to a recreational haven. Now, plans are coming together for a network of trails on the property. The land was originally owned by the U.S. Forest Service. Thanks to a complex land trade finalized last year, the property is now part of the valley's open space portfolio, owned by the town of Avon, with conservation easement — a contract ensuring the land will be preserved — held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. But even while the land was held by the feds, Lee Rimel dreamed of biking and hiking trails weaving across the parcel. A couple of years ago, Rimel and the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association went to U.S. Forest Service officials to ask if a group of volunteers could build a long-envisioned trail link between Avon and Singletree. After getting the go-ahead from the feds to work along a carefully-planned route, those locals got to work, sometimes alone or in pairs, and sometimes in slightly bigger groups. Swinging pickaxes, Pulaskis and shovels, the volunteers took two summers to create the link, which runs mostly along the south side of the parcel. The volunteers' next project was the "saddle ridge" trail, which heads north into the parcel off the Avon-to-Singletree link. That trail is expected to be finished this summer. Town's Role Building more trails this way — with some people spending Saturdays or summer evenings working away — could take years. That's where the town of Avon comes into the picture. Since the property is now owned by the town, it can spend money on the project — as long as it meets with the approval of the land trust. Avon Town Manager Virginia Egger said the idea, pending revisions, of course, is to spend roughly $90,000 this year on trail design and construction and then seek grants next year to finish the entire 7.5-mile network, which was primarily designed by local cyclists. "The town's role is to take the amazing work of these volunteers, make it a reality and help pay for it," Avon Mayor Rich Carroll said. Carroll noted that a dozen people came to the most recent meeting of the Avon Town Council to support the plan. Given the number of people who usually turn out for meetings, that's a lot. "It's super exciting," Carroll said. "We're going to have biking, hiking and running trails on 475 acres of open space in Avon." Broader Vision Putting a network of trails on the Avon parcel, as well as the crucial trail link between the Avon and Edwards communities, is just part of a broader vision of turning the Vail Valley into a cycling haven. Local riders are also working with the International Mountain Bicycle Association to have the valley designated a "ride center." The Avon parcel would combine with the trail network near Eagle to provide mountain-biking enthusiasts with an alternative to Fruita or other well-known cycling draws. 'Grassroots Effort' "This is just a great example of a grass-roots effort," council member Chris Evans said. "It makes you want to go and support it." Rimel said he's been a relatively small part of the volunteer effort, preferring to give his own kudos to the local mountain bike group and the people who have dedicated so much time to what is, at its core, hard, sweaty work. But trails on the parcel has been Rimel's dream, and he's happy to see that dream so close to coming true. "It's immensely gratifying that so many others have put so much time, energy and effort into this," he said.