Summit County trail users might someday be able to cross Hoosier and Fremont passes as the county considers expanding its existing recpath system to include routes to Alma and Leadville.
"Especially between Breckenridge and Blue River there's a lot of interest in it on a commuter basis," Summit County open space and trails resource specialist Katie Kent said. "It would be not just local, but it would connect to the more regional system."
Local officials are partnering with Lake and Park counties to explore the feasibility of both projects, which, if completed, would expand the Summit County trail system by roughly 39 miles.
The Hoosier Pass recpath would run roughly 17 miles from the existing trail in Breckenridge through Blue River to another path in Alma.
"It's basically filling in a gap between two recpaths that already exist," Kent said.
But officials are still working to find a route for the new trail in Blue River, where much of the property is near Highway 9 and a recpath in the area would likely interfere with multiple driveway accesses.
But stakeholders say they don't want the path to stray too far from the highway, as it would likely be used as a transportation route for commuters who work in Breckenridge and live in Blue River or Alma.
"I definitely see it as being used as a commuter route," Blue River Town Trustee Rob Theobald stated in an email to the Daily. "The path could also be a great recreational amenity to the town, and could possibly provide for future economic growth."
Steep slopes on either side of the south-end of town would also make it more difficult and expensive to direct the new path around the outskirts.
County officials plan to meet with property owners in the area to discuss alternative alignments. Very early estimates place the cost of the new recpath at roughly $1 million per mile. Kent said the county hopes to fund much of the planning, design and construction through various grants.
The Fremont Pass recpath may prove to be less challenging, as it crosses through the property of one private land owner: the Climax Mine, a company that has been supportive of trail-expansion projects in the past.
"Climax is very engaged and their management seems very interested in trying to make this happen," Summit County Open Space and Trails director Brian Lorch said. "We're trying to keep things going while the iron is hot with them."
Climax Mine previously provided a nearly $200,000 grant for the construction of the recpath crossing Vail Pass.
The trail proposed for Fremont Pass would connect with that path, follow a train grade up the back side of Ten Mile Creek over Searle Pass Road to the Climax Mine property and cross the pass into Lake County.
Local officials say the Lake County Board of County Commissioners is partnering on the project.
But both recpaths are still in the earliest planning stages, with various alignment proposals under review to determine feasibility. The Hoosier Path recpath would then have to be determined to be technically feasible given wetlands in the area before design or construction could begin.
"It's not going to happen any time in the next year or two," Kent said. "It's going to take a lot of different phases and this is just the first one."