Mountain trail system could receive $9.6 million |

Mountain trail system could receive $9.6 million

Kim Marquis

Silverthorne’s Blue River Experience project will become a real possibility instead of a long-range dream if the town can win a bid for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant.The Blue River Experience is an ambitious plan to create a continuous multi-use trail along the river linking neighborhoods, parks and fishing areas with the rest of the county’s trail system. The town is a finalist – one of 22 organizations seeking state grants – looking to garner part of $60 million expected to be awarded by Great Outdoors Colorado at the end of the year. “We are thrilled about it,” said mayor Lou DelPiccolo. “It gives us a chance to put the river front-and-center. The river is something that has been ignored for too long a time.”The town has been looking to develop a central pedestrian area for years. As an auto-oriented community missing a quaint main street sought by many tourists, Silverthorne has come to realize its main asset may be its long stretch of river. The grant would allow the town to enhance it.Long known as a gold medal trout river, the town wants to preserve 3.5 miles of the river from the Dillon Dam to just north of town hall. More than two miles of trail would also be constructed from town hall stretching north to Cottonwood Park, which isn’t in existence yet but would be an integral part of the project. The town also wants to develop the north pond near the new elementary school. The grant request is for $9.6 million, which would allow the project to be completed in less than three years. Originally planned for 10 years with various levels of fund raising, the prospect of starting the project in less than a year has Tammy Jamieson excited.Jamieson, the recreation and culture director for the town, said 90 percent of the necessary property easements have already been secured. Her department is negotiating with a few other property owners to link the entire project. Great Outdoors Colorado is the result of a citizens’ initiative passed in 1992 that receives up to 50 percent of the state’s lottery proceeds. It plans to dedicate $60 million next year to large-scale, legacy projects like Silverthorne’s. The amount adds to the organization’s regular annual grant plan, bringing the total to $97 million. It is the largest spending plan in its history by nearly double.Silverthorne has stiff competition for the funds. The city of Fort Collins wants to preserve 44,000 acres in the Laramie foothills. Jefferson County and Maintou Springs are looking to purchase open space along Colorado’s Front Range. And the Continental Divide Trail Alliance joined with Colorado State Parks in an attempt to get funds for easements on the 3,100-mile trail that traverses five states”I hope we can prevail in the funding we’ve applied for,” DelPiccolo said. “It would be a serious enhancement.”

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