Meeker readies for park, sidewalk projects

MEEKER I Upgrades at Ute Park and sidewalks for east Market Street are the two chief projects planned by the Town of Meeker in the next several months.
First is a new stone monument planned for Ute Park that will identify the park and contain a wooden attachment that identifies the park as “Home of the Meeker Classic” sheepdog championship trials, which occur annually over Labor Day weekend.
An international field of top dog handlers pit their dogs against wary sheep on their way to becoming world champion dogs/handlers in the multi-day event.
In addition to the new monument, the town has already upgraded some of the signage and some of the gates at the park, which will eventually lead to a completed trail system that connects the west side of Meeker with the east side.
The town is working with the Bureau of Land Management and the Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Parks District (ERBM) on the project that will place a new trail head at Ute Park.
The trail system currently starts at Sanderson Hills Park. When it is complete, starting on the east end of town, the trails will run up ERBM property via Phyllis and Dorcas Jensen Park, up China Wall, which is on BLM land, across the ridge to the west, down into Anderson Gulch land and into Ute Park. The length is just over four miles, topping out at about 7,200 feet in elevation.
The project will hopefully be complete by mid-summer, Meeker Mayor Mandi Etheridge said.
The $9,000 project is half-funded by a grant from the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado and half as a town match, she said.
The current Jensen Trails system, when complete, will feature more complete signage, more benches and possibly more tables. In addition to the Sanderson Hills Park trail head, there is also a trail head on upper Seventh Street in Meeker, which is a pedestrian-only entry to the lower, half-mile trail loop.
A second project the town is looking at for possibly late summer is adding sidewalks along the north side of Market Street, solidifying a stretch of sidewalk from Watts Market to Fourth Street in the first phase.
The town is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation since Market Street is also a state highway, Etheridge said. CDOT is doing the engineer work on the project, installing or widening existing sidewalks to eight-foot width.
“This will make that stretch of Market Street much safer, more pedestrian friendly and more visibly appealing,” she said. “It will bring the sidewalk up to code, and, when I took office, many people told me they wanted to beautify Market Street, and this will help do that.”
Etheridge and Town Administrator Scott Meszaros said the project is being funded through a $900,000 grant with $720,000 coming from the federal government and $180,000 in matching funds from the town.
“A lot depends on the weather,” Meszaros said. “We will probably put the call for bids out in September and the project could possibly begin in October. However, if we have normal October temperatures, the work will probably begin in the spring of 2014, when it is a bit warmer.”
Meszeros also said the town is uncertain what it will do as a follow-up to the project, if it wants to try and obtain another grant to extend the sidewalk farther to the west or to just make it a town project, finishing the sidewalk in phases until the project is complete.
“It may be actually cheaper for the town to do the work to complete the sidewalk,” he said. “We can do it at the pace that we can afford it, and, in the long run, it may be cheaper to do it ourselves. When this first phase of the project is complete, we will take a good look at which way to proceed.