Avon evaluates new egress option for Wildridge neighborhood

The town has started a project to create an alternative route out of the subdivision

Avon is considering alternative routes out of the Wildridge subdivision in the event of a wildfire and evacuation.
Town of Avon/Courtesy photo

Given the rising wildfire danger, Avon is evaluating possible egress routes for the Wildridge neighborhood.

Currently, there is one paved access road in and out of the subdivision, which has led to community concerns about the efficiency of possible evacuations in the event of a wildfire.

Vehicles make their way up to Wildridge Monday in Avon. The development only has one way in and one way out.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Earlier this spring, Avon Town Council member Chico Thuon addressed these concerns, saying the current situation for evacuating the neighborhood made him “uneasy.”

“Personally, living there (in Wildridge), if we had a perfect storm — such as Boulder and winds were swirling up there — if one car jammed that single-track road, what would we do?” Thuon said. “That makes me really uneasy living there, and I’m sure it makes everybody uneasy … it’s just the reality of it. It’s one way in, one way out, it gives me the jitters just living there a little bit.” 

Karl Bauer, the Eagle River Fire Protection District fire chief, addressed these concerns and noted that fire service agencies across the valley have been assessing Wildridge and other neighborhoods with the same concern.

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“We are assessing, up and down the valley a number of communities that have essentially one way out, and developing mitigation so we can increase that to a secondary way out,” Bauer said. “We are recognizing that we likely will have to be far more aggressive on initiating evacuations than we ever have before.” 

Currently, the concern is that in the event of a wildfire in Avon’s northern neighborhoods, residents would evacuate via Metcalf Road into Wildridge Road.

“Our concern for the last number of years has been what if we have an issue on that road and we have to do an evacuation?” said Avon Police Chief Greg Daly at the same meeting.

To this end, Avon has started a project to improve the route connecting the Wildridge and Singletree communities. According to a written report in the town’s June 28 meeting packet, this route, also known as June Creek, is approximately 6,000 feet and connects Wildridge and Singletree.  

The report describes the route as follows:

“Starting in Wildridge, the route passes through two private properties within a platted access easement. It then travels along three USFS Route sections: 717.1B, 717 (‘June Creek Road’), and 717.1A. The route then enters June Creek Trail, a non-motorized, non-system USFS trail. It goes through the corner of the West Avon Preserve, owned by town of Avon. Lastly, the route passes through two Berry Creek Metropolitan District open space tracts before connecting with Singletree Road. A small section of the trail near Singletree Road is currently located on private property.”

Having his additional route in the event of an emergency “would be a significant improvement,” the report reads.

Due to the nature of the trail, Daly said law enforcement, in the event of an evacuation “would have to be very specific in what vehicles can go down June Creek Trail, because that’s the last thing we want is to be stopped,” emphasizing that only four-wheel drive vehicles could drive the stretch of road.

To date, the town has done some work to make this a viable evacuation path, if needed. This has included consulting with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Army Corps of Engineers, Berry Creek Metro District, local Holy Cross Ranger District staff, and Eagle River Fire Protection District as well as conducting a land survey as it travels through Berry Creek Metropolitan property, designing grading and retaining wall schematic level improvement plans and more. 

Through these consultations, the town was advised by the local Holy Cross Ranger District that it will need to complete the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process. It will also require an easement and agreement from Berry Creek as well as possible easements and an application and special-use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. Other work that is listed as the town’s next steps include a drone survey for Eagle County processes, finalizing construction plans, hiring a contractor, completing the work and more.

This evacuation path is just one way local agencies and the town are preparing for not only this wildfire season but future years as well.

“This menu of various different approaches with our egress, our evacuation training people signing up for EC alerts (that is very critical), and then our sirens,” Daly said. “All of that is to create a heightened public safety in the Wildridge subdivision. We have 660 homes, somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 people at any one time depending on time of year. So to get that many people out, we have to use absolutely everything to get them out, especially quickly.”

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