Colorado Governor Hickenlooper celebrates Eagle County accomplishments
VAIL — Gov. John Hickenlooper celebrated various Eagle County accomplishments last week as part of his visit to Vail for the annual Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference.
In Wolcott, Hickenlooper helped cut the ribbon on a new section of the Eagle Valley Trail which travels through the Horn Ranch Open Space.
The governor also visited Red Cliff to celebrate the small town’s newly acquired broadband internet service, which has been operational for about a year.
In Wolcott on the Horn Ranch property, Hickenlooper shared his dream of a day when visitors can “arrive at Denver International Airport, and ride their bicycle all the way to Eagle, without ever going on the shoulder of a road,” he said. “And we’re not as far as you might think. When you make these kinds of long term investments, and you’re looking at a future that sometimes seems far away, it’s almost always closer than we think.”
To make Hickenlooper’s vision come true, the entire Eagle Valley Trail project must be completed, linking East Vail to Glenwood Canyon via a 63-mile hard surface trail in Eagle County. With the new 6.5 mile section through Horn Ranch now paved, 51 of those 63 miles are complete.
The Horn Ranch project cost $7 million, with $2 million coming from a Great Outdoors Colorado grant award.
Additional funding included $200,000 from the town of Eagle and $4.8 million from Eagle County’s ECO Trails, ECO Transit, Open Space and Capital Improvement funds.
“We worked with a lot of land owners to get easements,” said ECO Trails Program Manager Kevin Sharke. “The town of Eagle, Trinity RED, Red Mountain Ranch, Eagle County School District, Bureau of Land Management, Union Pacific Railroad, the Public Utilities Commission, Colorado Department of Transportation and Dave and Sue Mott, who gave us an awesome easement that will allow us to put a bridge at the end of this segment.”
CONNECTING THE STATE
While his Wolcott visit focused on connecting the state through hard surface trails, Hickenlooper’s Red Cliff visit was part of his effort to connect the entire state through broadband internet service, something Red Cliff has enjoyed for less than a year.
“It’s made everything easier,” said Red Cliff Town Manager Barb Smith, who was using satellite internet before as an administrator and clerk with the town. Not only was it much slower, Smith said, it was much less reliable.
“It would go down if there was too much snow, we’d have to get the maintenance guy up there to clean it off,” she said.
A grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, as well as a lot of time an effort from the Colorado Northwest Council of Governments, was how the project was funded, in addition to the money put forth through Red Cliff’s general fund.
“We were one of the lucky ones who could get it done,” Smith said, in reference to Hickenlooper’s effort.
With Hickenlooper in town, Smith took the opportunity to invite the Eagle River Valley Food Bank to the event to showcase the work they have done in Red Cliff.
“They’ve been really helpful,” Smith said.
Kelly Liken attended as part of her ongoing work with the food bank. Liken said at the moment, her focus has been zeroed in on parenting and family, and the Eagle River Valley Food Bank.
The food bank partners with a group called Our Community Foundation to rescue groceries that are near or at their expiration date. Liken and others bring them to neighborhoods — they drop off packages in some places and set up booths in others.
“We do a mobile pantry, it really looks like a farmers market,” Liken said. “We have fresh produce, dairy, everything and people come and shop. There’s no money exchanged … people are able to take what they need and they want, and they’re helping us rescue these groceries.”
Liken said she found the idea to be innovate and the work to be as rewarding as the restaurant business.
“One thing that we’ve noticed with these mobile markets is they really build community,” Liken said.