Rangely trails project grant still moving forward

The first segment of the Royden Ditch project 16-mile system will feature a 10-foot-wide asphalt trail, signage, railings and landscaping and will accommodate bicycles, pedestrians, skates and wheelchairs.

The first segment of the Royden Ditch project 16-mile system will feature a 10-foot-wide asphalt trail, signage, railings and landscaping and will accommodate bicycles, pedestrians, skates and wheelchairs.
RANGELY I If you spend any time in the mountain town of Durango, it won’t be long before you find yourself on the Animas River Trail. A continuous flow of concrete and asphalt meanders along the scenic river, providing more than seven miles of hard-surface trail for bikers, joggers and skaters.
Though it won’t follow a river, at least for a while, the Rangely trails system envisioned by Town Manager Peter Brixius and Code Compliance Officer Vicky Pfennig may one day offer similar access, safety and natural beauty to its users.
Pfennig says the purpose of the trails is threefold.
“This system is important because we have a major highway running through town,” Pfennig said. “People have to walk or bike to get places, which can be dangerous. We also want to get people out into the country to see the area where they live.
“And we need to get tourism going here. We have the only rock-crawling park on the Western Slope. We have Canyon Pintado. We’re a gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. We see people with bikes going through here, going other places. We need to keep some of those people here.”
A comprehensive trails system for the town wasn’t initially what Brixius and Pfennig had in mind. In 2010, concerns about the deterioration of the asphalt trail parallel to Kennedy Drive had them looking for funding to improve the path’s safety and stability.
But when that goal morphed into something bigger, Brixius and Pfennig took advantage of the opportunity.
“Once we started looking at grant possibilities, we realized (Kennedy Drive) couldn’t be done without planning a loop system,” Brixius said.
So the town connected with CU-Denver’s Colorado Center for Community Development, a research organization that partners with urban and rural communities for projects like these. Three engineering students from the university spent three months creating topographical maps. The Town of Rangely contributed in-kind work, with town council member Frank Huitt donating helicopter hours and Pfennig and Brixius donating their time to seek out possible trail links. Richard Sales, the students’ supervisor and now Palisade’s assistant town manager, helped Pfennig write two $30,000 planning grants.
In December 2010, and again in April 2011, Pfennig learned that the town had been awarded the grants, one from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), a board that distributes a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to the state’s wildlife, parks, and trails, and the other from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife program.
“I was really excited because this was our first attempt at writing these kinds of grants,” Pfennig said. “To get them both was really overwhelming.”
To satisfy part of the match required by the grant, the town hired Denver-based DHM Design Corporation to help create the master trails plan. From April to October 2011, the engineering firm looked at possible trail locations, met with the town council and Rangely citizens in key stakeholder and public council meetings, designed trail layouts and alignments, and submitted a master plan based on their research and the town’s suggestions.
“This was a very public process,” Brixius said.
The result of that process was a four-chapter, 76-page master plan that details the interlocking five-loop system, which will join existing paths and on-street routes to new asphalt, gravel and concrete trails. All of the segments combined will create a “continuous trail loop around and through the Town of Rangely,” linking the town’s recreation areas, schools, parks and businesses.
Once the plan was sent to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife program, Pfennig and Brixius took the next step toward the trail system’s realization: applying for a construction grant. On April 23, 2012, the CPWP awarded Rangely a $136,500 grant using GOCO, Recreation Trails Program, and Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF).
Now several requirements need to be met to satisfy the LWCF portion of the grant, from establishing control and tenure to a complete project budget and detailed mapping. Twenty-five percent of the grant must be matched by cash contributions or in-kind work, and Brixius plans to do both. The Town is employing DHM Design to help meet the federal requirements, and it will make use of the “good operators, good craftsmen in town who can work with subcontractors and extend the amount of linear feet of trail” created, Brixius says.
As soon as the federal requirements are met, building the first section of the projected 16-mile system begins. Because stakeholders and town council members prioritized a trail connecting the Recreation Center to Elks Park and Parkview Elementary, the first segment will extend from Royden Ditch, where South White Street and Middle Street intersect, to South Stanolind Avenue. The project will turn the existing dirt trail into a 10-foot wide asphalt path complete with signage, railings, landscaping and access gates.
Once the Royden Ditch segment is complete, the town will apply for more funding to continue the loop system. Repairing and enhancing the Kennedy Drive trail, part of the plan’s “College Loop,” is one of the next priorities.
“It’s a very competitive process,” Brixius said. “If we’re able to secure a grant once every three years, we can build another quarter-mile of trail each time that will make the most impact to the community. My hope would be to have $700,000 to $800,000 in funding over the next 15 years.”
Funding from private sources like the Boettcher Foundation or local entities isn’t out of the question, Brixius said.
“I’d like to see the Parks and Recreation Center help us out at some point,” Brixius said. “They’re a tax-supported entity and have pretty good reserves. For that piece of trail around Elks Park, we would look to them to help support that, and any other areas they feel compelled to help with.”
Pfennig envisions natural-surface trails, ideal for bikers and hikers, leading from Kenney Reservoir into Chase Draw someday. She imagines trails complete with boat docks and rest areas, built to accommodate bikers and kayakers, one day flanking the White River.
“We’re doing this because it’s the place we all live, where we raise our kids, where we make our living,” Pfennig said. “Rangely is a wonderful place to live, and we should all be encouraged to bring to it whatever we can for future generations.”