Governor lists Eagle to Horn Ranch trail as state priority | VailDaily.com

Governor lists Eagle to Horn Ranch trail as state priority

EAGLE — A gaping 7-mile hole in Eagle County's bike trail system has grabbed the attention of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the segment has been listed as one of the state's priority projects for funding during the year ahead.

Last month, during his State of the State address, Hickenlooper highlighted a list of the state's highest priority trail projects as part of Colorado the Beautiful's 16 in 2016 initiative.

The projects represent the state's 16 most important trail gaps, missing trail segments and not-yet-built trails, and they reach from the Front Range to southwestern Colorado. Hickenlooper's team says his effort is designed to build upon strong existing support and partnerships to push them to completion.

"We've identified projects that will help us fulfill the vision of Colorado the Beautiful and create the kinds of connections that link us to the natural splendor that sets our state apart," Hickenlooper said. "We need the kind of outdoor access that more easily brings all of us — especially our young people — into the fresh air and away from indoor distractions. Getting more Coloradans outdoors more often is good for our health and a refreshing reminder of how fortunate we are to live in Colorado."

"This program is a good fit for us. It is an effort close trail gaps … and also fund corridors for movement into 'vibrant green spaces,'" said Ellie Caryl, program manager for ECO Trails. "This segment is long and this makes a meaningful connection and closes a large gap in our system."

Meaningful connection

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The 16 in 2016 initiative was created to start a more focused, coordinated conversation to support trails and promote outdoor recreation across Colorado. Moving these projects forward means a better connected network of trails statewide, improved links to expanded outdoor recreational opportunities, safe alternative transportation routes and economic development opportunities for adjacent communities.

The initiative is a key component of Colorado the Beautiful's broader goal to ensure, within a generation, every Coloradan will live within 10 minutes of a park, trail or "vibrant green space."

Projects were selected based on several criteria, including their economic development potential, their proximity to underserved communities, the need for new paved and natural surface multi-use trails, the potential for greater partnerships across all levels of government, nonprofits and the private sector, and the project's ability to support environmental stewardship. Most of the selected projects have been under development for years and already benefit from local support and partnerships. Some trail projects are larger and will need significant additional investment; others are more localized and need a push to get over the finish line. The 16 in 2016 initiative is intended to focus attention and resources on those projects.

"Being on the list is a leg up in the grant cycle that is coming up," said Caryl. She noted the list represents projects ranging from Front Range urban trails to trails in remote areas. The 16 in 2016 initiative anticipated a total of $30 million in funding from Great Outdoors Colorado (Colorado lottery) with up to $10 million available in 2016.

No new state dollars are tied to the trail initiative, but Great Outdoors Colorado is investing $30 million in trails over the next four years. Great Outdoors Colorado has dedicated that the first $10 million of funding for the trail connections and the 16 priority projects, along with other qualifying projects, are eligible to apply for funding. Additional trails funding is available to eligible entities through other competitive sources, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Department of Local Affairs and Colorado Department of Transportation.

Eagle to Horn Ranch

The local trail proposal is a $2 million project that starts at Nogul Gulch and proceeds eastward to the Horn Ranch location. The trail is proposed through private land along the corridor.

"We have had conversations with landowners and they are interested in working with us," said Caryl. "If all the stars align, we could break ground in 2017."

In addition to getting landowner approval, ECO Trails must also submit a concept paper in March as the next step in the funding process. If the project makes it past that review, a full application will follow as the awards will be announced in September.

State effort

To support the advancement of his 16 priority projects, Hickenlooper will create an interagency council comprised of relevant state agencies and offices. The council will ensure appropriate coordination occurs across state government to promote trail projects and outdoor recreation, and work closely with the newly formed Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry and the Colorado Pedals Project.

The initiative is only the first step in a public process to develop a statewide plan for trails. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is undertaking a strategic planning effort for their Trails Program that will set values and goals for expanding and maintaining recreational trails across Colorado. Additionally, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will publish a statewide trail map this spring, making it easier for Coloradans to plan and experience an outdoor recreational activity.

A list of the 16 trail projects identified in the 16 in 2016 initiative is available on the Colorado the Beautiful page of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources website. The list includes a brief summary of each proposal and a map locating each project.