Avon, Edwards now better connected | VailDaily.com

Avon, Edwards now better connected

Matt Zalaznick

Though all except the heartiest bicyclists will probably have stowed away their wheels for the winter, the county will be two links closer to its goal of paving a recreation path from Vail Pass to Glenwood Canyon.

The West Edwards Trail extension opened Thursday. The path runs from the entrance to the Eagle River Village mobile home park on the south side of U.S Highway 6, crosses the Edwards Spur Road at the traffic light, and stops at Hillcrest Drive , says Elie Caryl, the trails planner for Eagle County Regional Transit, or ECO.

“It’s been very clear the trail needed to be extended because there’s a lot of confusion over it stopping and starting,” Caryl says.

Safety is the reason the path crosses at the light, she says.

“When we were looking at the design our original thought is that it would stay on the south side, but the engineers analyzed that idea for safety and the potential cross the highway,” Caryl says. “So due to recent pedestrian fatalities on Highway 6, we needed to take advantage of the signal light being there and really direct people to use that.

“It’s about safety,” she adds.

And boundaries are the reason the trail stops at Hillcrest Drive. The $150,000 path was paid for by the Edwards Metropolitan District and that’s where its territory ends.

“The Metro District is very supportive of completing a connected trail system through Edwards,” she says.

The path was built by ECO, with cooperation from the Colorado Department of Transportation, Caryl says.

Just because the path ends at Hillcrest Drive doesn’t mean bikers headed west are out in the cold – unless of course, it’s really cold out.

Earlier this summer, CDOT widened the shoulders on Highway 6 west of Edwards. Cyclists had long complained that stretch was the most dangerous in the county to ride.

Headed back east, the extension nearly completes a trail running the entire length of Edwards, Caryl says,

“There are still a couple of weak links,” she says. “The Edwards intersection will always be a trouble spot.”

Next spring, Cemetery Road and its bridge will be rebuilt. During the construction, a bike trail will also be paved, Caryl says.

“Now, you have to go down that narrow hill, down the dirt road, onto the bridge, up over the tracks and onto the paved trail,” Caryl says. “You’ll no longer have to ride on the dirt road. The new trail will run alongside the new road and cross the bridge to the trail.”

In two weeks, another segment of trail will open along the Eagle River in Avon. When that opens, the trail will be pretty much complete from Edwards to Avon, Caryl says.

“The core trail is done and there are spurs going to neighborhoods to the south and the north, and there will probably be more over time,” she says.

The new Avon trail, scheduled to open Oct. 22, will run from West Beaver Creek Boulevard to patch of land known as the “confluence,” where a trail already exists. The confluence, owned by Vail Resorts, is the empty lot west of Avon Road, between Benchmark Road and Beaver Creek’s east skier parking lot. Vail Resorts is designing a small ski village for the confluence, and that is the proposed home of a gondola that would carry skiers up to Bachelor Gulch and Strawberry Park on Beaver Creek Mountain.

“The confluence trail doesn’t get used as much as it could because it’s hidden and it dead ends,” she says.

Caryl says she’s pleased with the new Avon trail.

“The new trail is an impressive piece of work. It’s amazing how they put it in there with those really steep slopes. But you can look right at the river. It’s beautiful,” she says. “Now we just have to work on Avon to Dowd Junction.”

That’s the biggest and most complex missing link remaining up valley. There is currently no path that runs through Eagle-Vail to Dowd Junction, where the path coming from Vail ends.

Several different agencies, including Eagle County and CDOT, are now designing that trail. But what makes the trail tough is one, the land is would cross belongs to several different owners, including the Village at Avon and the State Land Board, and two, a series of bridges would have to built to carry bikers across the river.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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