That’s the hope of Summit County anyway, after officials hosted members of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the White River National Forest and other area stakeholders for a Monday afternoon jaunt down its proposed Fremont Pass Recreation Pathway. As part of the selection process for receiving state lottery revenue, GOCO officials will visit each of the applicant sites as it makes its funding decisions.
“Everyone needs money,” said Jason Lederer, resource specialist for Summit County Open Space & Trails, “this project’s no different. This is a good opportunity to get out on the ground.”
The county already received $75,000 from GOCO in April to help pay for conceptual planning and the environmental analysis process for the Fremont project and will now compete with seven other proposals for part of a $10 million pot to be awarded in early October. The county requested $2 million for the 3-mile stretch that stands to connect the Tenmile Canyon path at Copper Mountain and end at State Highway 91 south of Graveline Gulch.
Working in the county’s favor is the fact that the Fremonth Recpath was named to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s “Colorado the Beautiful: 16 in 2016” list in January. The initiative intends to identify the most important trail gaps around the state to help expedite their completion for expanded outdoors opportunities.
“This project is pretty apparent just to get people off the road.”Jake Houston GOCO local government program manager
Currently, many see portions of the Fremont Pass cycling space along Highway 91 as dangerous. Shoulders at a particular segment south of the Climax Mine, where 18-wheeler traffic can be frequent, are referred to as “The Narrows” because they are so tapered that little room exists on the two-lane road (one each direction) for shared use between bicycles and the heavy haulers.
Officials noted Monday during the small group tour that the byway is a high-use area for riders, with a number of summer rides and races coming through. Today it’s used strictly by “the 1-percenters” — those who are deemed rabid devotees to the sport — and not many families because of the safety implications.
“I know I wouldn’t ride it,” said Jake Houston, GOCO local government program manager. “This project is pretty apparent just to get people off the road.”
The county has therefore re-imagined a protected and paved path, 12-feet wide with 2-foot shoulders on each side, west of the highway beyond Tenmile Creek where the space is presently a pathway for occasional stream crossings and primarily used as a utility maintenance area for underground gas and overhead power lines. The stretch was previously a historic railroad track for mining, where old rail ties can still be spotted in the creek, but has been closed off since at least the 1930s.
Two areas of concern mentioned in initial environmental impact documents filed by the U.S. Forest Service note potential conflicts with known electronic-collared lynx who use the swath of land as habitat, in addition to protected wetlands in sections of the strip. That process is ongoing and the county’s Open Space & Trails division hopes to meet mitigation requirements with respect to these issues, while striking a balance in the project of recreational opportunities, safety and environmental benefits.
Should the county eventually receive Forest Service approval through its environmental study process, the search for funding streams would then become real. And receiving upwards of $2 million from GOCO would go a long way toward realizing the project an estimated three years down the line.
“The governor’s designation provides a lot of leverage for funding,” said Lederer. “That level of support is really critical and it really helps the decision-makers make decisions. It’s an exciting time for the project.”