Vail Trail may receive big re-do this year
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The just-formed Vail Valley Trail Connection is a group of individuals and off-road cycling and trail advocacy organizations. The group is so new it doesn’t yet have a website, so for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
VAIL — For years, the Vail Trail has run along the hills on the south side of the Gore Creek Valley between, roughly, Vail Village and East Vail. That trail may get the first part of a significant re-do this year, and might provide a good first alternative for getting off the town’s paved paths.
Town of Vail Senior Landscape Architect Gregg Barrie these days is working on a plan to turn the somewhat rough-and-tumble singletrack into a more user-friendly trail. Most of the town’s existing unpaved trails tend to be pretty steep, which can be discouraging to those who prefer a less-strenuous path. The trail today is fairly well-used by pedestrians in the summer, and by snowshoers and Nordic skiers in the winter, but isn’t a very good mountain bike trail.
This plan would correct that. The idea currently being developed would be similar to the town’s North Trail — albeit not as steep — an unpaved trail with a roughly six-foot base that results in a trail three or four feet wide. The idea, Barrie said, is to keep a single-track feel while still providing enough room to pull off without fear.
Most of the proposed trail is on town land, with some re-routing to flatten out existing steep stretches. Barrie said the town is working with the U.S. Forest Service on an agreement to run the trail across small pieces of federal land.
The current cost estimate is about $250,000. Barrie said much of that cost is dedicated to an environmental study and other planning.
If the town uses a trail-building company, then about three miles of trail could be built this summer. That trail would probably start near the East Vail exit off Interstate 70, run through the beaver pond-dotted open space there and run west toward the Vail Golf Club. The trail could eventually stretch seven miles, from Vail Village into East Vail.
Barrie said the improved trail could help connect other trails in town, helping provide unpaved access to much of the town. The trail could also be used as an escape route in case of a devastating wildfire or other kind of community disaster.
Throughout the coming years Vail’s trail system can connect with, and enhance, the entire valley’s trail system.
Earning Gold Status
Mountain-bike advocates are working now on a proposal to the International Mountain Biking Association in hopes of earning that group’s gold status for the valley. Only the area around Park City has so far earned that status.
As mountain-bike tourism grows, the association’s seal of approval could be an important part of marketing the entire valley as a mountain-biking destination.
Amy Cassidy, the marketing and events coordinator for the town of Eagle and a founder of the new Vail Valley Trail Connection group, has seen first-hand the draw a new, well-publicized trail can be.
Eagle, a couple of years ago, opened the Haymaker trail in order to host the state’s high school mountain biking championships. This year will mark the third year of the championships in Eagle, and Cassidy said that attention has brought a number of people to the already well-used trail.
Cassidy said that part of the local group’s pitch to the international mountain-biking group will include the diversity of trails in the area.
Haymaker is relatively flat, she said, but there’s a trail ride near Eagle that has about 3,000 feet of elevation drop. New trails opened in west Avon last year add to the valley’s trail portfolio, and Vail’s existing trails — with the possibility of the Vail Trail starting this year — add still more to the mix.
“It’s getting big,” Cassidy said of mountain bike tourism. “With Vail building a beginner trail — that’s what people want. It’s awesome.”
And, while the Vail Trail project is one for the entire community, Barrie said he’s looking forward to a ride through the aspens with his own kids.