Summit County is newly the recipient of $125,000 from two state grants for a pair of high-profile recreation projects.
Great Outdoors Colorado — popularly known as GOCO and funded by a portion of the state’s lottery proceeds to offer money for open space projects — announced the financial awards on Thursday, April 7. The county will receive $75,000 for its proposed Fremont Pass Recreation Pathway in partnership with Lake County, and the town of Frisco will get $50,000 to complete its first-ever trails master plan.
Frisco Mayor Gary Wilkinson, who was re-elected to his second term the prior Tuesday, noted during a mayoral forum in March that increasing and enhancing recreational opportunities in the town — those that are the best fit within the community — remains a top priority on his agenda moving forward. Daniel C. Kibbie, Jr., a member of Frisco’s town council and just off a mayoral bid, also stated recreation, particularly trail creation, needs to remain a point of emphasis for the town.
“We need more recreation options closer to home, so we don’t have to travel with all of the congestion of Highway 9 and I-70,” said Councilmember Kibbie, a longtime former employee at Copper Mountain Resort. “It’s right outside our backdoor, and we need to make it better.”
Jessica Burley, a freshly-elected member to the town’s council, agreed that the integration of the community through recreation is of chief concern. With Frisco essentially a town at a crossroads with how it develops further as population growth persists, providing additional recreation choices will be all the more important for its residents.
“(Everyone) is pretty focused on affordable housing,” she said. “The second thing, though, is making sure that our recreational opportunities are local and here in Frisco, so, as local person, we don’t have to leave Frisco. And that way, we can attract visitors to an enhanced trailed system, open spaces and the recreational aspect of Frisco.”
The town stated in its grant application, which it worked on with the county’s Open Space & Trails Department and the Dillon Ranger District, that Frisco residents recognize bike trails as the most trafficked resource in town, seeing millions of visitors annually. The goal with the master plan, slated to be adopted by December of this year, is to analyze and prioritize trail needs and offer connectivity between the town’s entire network.
Meanwhile, the $75,000 grant for the county’s intended Fremont Recpath — a proposed 3-mile path that would connect to the Ten Mile Canyon path at Copper Mountain and end at State Highway 91 south of Graveline Gulch — is a first step in acquiring the necessary funding to complete the initial phase of much larger vision. The long-term goal is to build a biking trail that links Summit and Lake counties, connecting Copper Mountain to the Mineral Belt Trail in Leadville and, beyond that one, a giant mountain biking loop from Summit County to Aspen, Glenwood Springs and Eagle.
This trail gap is specifically one that Gov. John Hickenlooper named to his “Colorado the Beautiful: 16 in 2016” initiative back in January. The goal of the plan is to identify the state’s most important missing trail segments in order to complete those projects and enrich the overall outdoors opportunities available to Coloradans.
“The designation really gives us a lot of support from lots of people, levels of government and the community,” said Jason Lederer, resource specialist for Summit County Open Space & Trails. “What this grant does now is helps us advance and fund the planning we need to do to basically take this pathway and run it over Fremont Pass. We’re looking to use the funding to help pay for the environmental analysis and NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process and advance the conceptual design planning on the Lake County side.”
The Dillon Ranger District, the representative agency for the White River National Forest for the proposed project, announced the initial public comment for the 3-mile Fremont Recpath at the end of March. Summit County government pitched its formal special-use plan to the Forest Service this past August after holding discussions on paving this section of road dating back to 2009. The Forest Service accepted the project for review in October.
Lederer acknowledged that if approved, it could be an expensive project — as much as $1 million per mile in some sections. But with an old railroad grade and other existing infrastructure ideal for a bike path already in place, the idea is for the GOCO grant to help cost-effectively plan the project for a completed concept by the end of 2017, rather than creating something entirety from scratch.
“This is an important project to the county, those who live here, and those who visit,” he said. “We’re working between now and then to kick off steps to hit that goal, quickly and efficiently.”
If ultimately granted approval, the county would apply some of its annual dedicated tax dollars through the Open Space & Trails budget to the project, on top of ideally obtaining other grants. While the “16 in ‘16” classification may help remove roadblocks to finishing various state projects and encourage local and state agencies to work together, it does not offer any additional or guaranteed funding streams.
In total since its inception in 1992, GOCO has invested approaching $4.5 million into Summit County endeavors. That’s good for 700 acres of open space in the community, supporting portions of such projects as Dillon Valley Elementary’s new playground, the Iron Springs Open Space, and the Lake Dillon Blue River Trail.
These most recent Summit County undertakings are part of $6.7 million awarded during GOCO’s April board meeting for its annual grant cycle. That money will be used to benefit 26 counties across Colorado with 39 projects, including school playgrounds, community parks and trails, and various facility upgrades.