Governor checks in on Eagle Valley Trail | VailDaily.com

Governor checks in on Eagle Valley Trail

Gov. John Hickenlooper rides down the Eagle Valley Trail on Monday in Edwards. During his ride from Avon to Edwards, Hickenlooper stopped at local schools and public spaces to see how the trails connects different aspects of the valley.
Lexi Christensen | Special to the Daily |

EAGLE COUNTY — John Hickenlooper isn’t just the Colorado Governor, he’s also a recovering geologist.

Taking in the Eagle Valley Trail on Monday, Hickenlooper relapsed back into geologist mode when he got near the old Wolcott quarry, explaining to local officials how the sandstone harvested from that site which was used on the Brown Palace has not eroded as fast as other sandstone specimens from around the state due to porosity and permeability factors.

“Cheesman Park, the Molly Brown House, a lot of those places have seen tremendous degradation in the sandstone, but not the Brown Palace,” Hickenlooper said.

Also a former brewpub owner, Hickenlooper talked beer with Bonfire Brewing owner Andy Jessen.

“We made the connection about his visit to Bonfire five years ago, and chatted a little about the beer in grocery stores legislation,” Jessen said.

Hiking with Hickenlooper – On the Hill 8.29.16 from On the Hill on Vimeo.

The true purpose of the Governor’s visit, however, was to check in on the progress of the Eagle Valley Trail, a hard surface trail which will help connect Eagle, Summit, Garfield and Pitkin counties. Eagle County’s Horn Ranch parcel of Open Space, adjacent to the old Wolcott quarry, will provide for an important mile or so of that Eagle Valley Trail. The Eagle Valley Trail is one of the “16 in 2016” trails selected by Hickenlooper’s Colorado the Beautiful initiative, which identified the 16 most important trail gaps, missing trail segments and unbuilt trails reaching from the Front Range to southwestern Colorado.

“The foundation is to create an inventory and an analysis of all the open space in the state of Colorado,” Hickenlooper said from Horn Ranch on Monday. “Conservation easements is part of it, also open space that’s acquired by counties or the state, U.S. Forest Service, BLM, all the different lands, get that inventory and look at — where are all the hiking trails? Where are all the biking trails? What are the points of access and what do we have to add? Do we have any missing links?”

BIG HELP FROM GOCO

The 403-acre Horn Ranch Conservation and Recreation project was a $3.6 million acquisition by Eagle County in 2013, $600,000 of which came from Great Outdoors Colorado. The Eagle Valley Land Trust’s conservation easement on the property ensures the land will be used for public recreational access, habitat conservation and viewshed protection.

Great Outdoors Colorado is funded by revenues from the state lottery and is investing $30 million in trails over the next four years as part of its Connect Initiative that will improve walkable and bikeable paths and trails for projects across the state. The special initiative is part of Great Outdoors Colorado’s five-year strategic plan to protect land for people and wildlife, connect people to trails and other outdoor opportunities, and inspire kids to get outside more often. Great Outdoors Colorado has dedicated the first $10 million of funding for the “16 in 2016” projects, and additional trail funding will be available to eligible entities through other competitive sources, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Department of Local Affairs and Colorado Department of Transportation. Eagle County’s ECO Trails program has applied for a $2 million matching grant for the Eagle Valley Trail after being selected as one of the 16 priority projects.

MANY PARTNERS

Hickenlooper also biked the section of the Eagle Valley Trail connecting Avon and Edwards. The last phase in completing the Eagle Valley Trail through Avon has been underway this summer though a $672,000 investment from the town of Avon, as well as $1,355,000 in CDOT grant funds and $453,534 from ECO Trails.

Those are a few of the many partners ECO Trails has had to work with in order to see the trail make it as far as it has.

“It just doesn’t get done without the easement,” Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan said on Monday.

The next phase of trail expected to connect Eagle to Horn Ranch. To see that happen, local Merv Lapin granted 1.6 miles of trail easement through Red Mountain Ranch, the Eagle County School District Granted a mile of trail easement, the Union Pacific Railroad is working on licensing 1.4 miles of the trail corridor to Eagle Count, and CDOT is examining a request by Eagle County to use sections of the I-70 rightaway.

“We do have part of the Eagle Valley Trail that leaves our town and goes west, but this one to the east is a missing piece that will be a wonderful amenity for folks in our town, and visitors to the area,” said Eagle Mayor Anne McKibben.

BALLOT QUESTION COULD HELP

The Eagle to Horn Ranch section of the trail is part of a 14 mile gap through the Eagle River Valley which ECO trails is working to bridge.

Some of that will require, literally, a bridge.

“As a next phase, at the very end of the project, we will be putting in a 400-foot long trail bridge, and that will take us (from Horn Ranch) to Wolcott, and then our last gap on into Edwards,” said Ellie Caryl with ECO Trails.

To see the project through, County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney suggested voters say yes on a ballot initiative to expand of the use of county open space funds, which is possible for this fall. That initiative would help the project see completion “some time when I can still enjoy it,” McQueeney said with a laugh.