Commissioners grant district $87,000 toward sidewalk project
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit County Commissioners agreed Monday to put $87,000 in public use fees toward construction of a $3.5 million sidewalk along Ryan Gulch Road. While that’s a fraction of the total, the manager of the Buffalo Mountain Metro District – the entity that maintains Wildernest’s roads – says it will forge ahead with the work.
Commissioners said they believe funding the project to a greater degree could open a Pandora’s box.
“Summit County purposely doesn’t have a lot of sidewalks in their subdivisions,” said County Commissioner Bill Wallace. “If we fund this … we’ve got Summit Cove, Dillon Valley.”
County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom also pointed out the county isn’t in the business of building walkways.
“We build bike paths,” he said. “We don’t build sidewalks. If a person wants to walk on a bike path, that’s fine.”
Buffalo Mountain Metro District manager Gary Drescher said he believes the district can find the remaining money to build the pathway.
“Unless we encounter an insurmountable stumbling block, I think it’s the district’s intention to move forward with this,” he said. “At this point, a specific funding mechanism has not been chosen. But we are convinced we have the wherewithal to raise the money that’s necessary to finance the construction.”
In early September, Drescher asked the commissioners for $115,000. Instead, they agreed Monday to give the district a lesser amount of money from the Lower Blue Public Use Area Account. Those fees are assessed to developers and set aside for developing recreational amenities and school sites as growth occurs.
While Lindstrom said he believes the idea of a Wildernest bike path or pedestrian walkway should be encouraged, he and Wallace don’t want to see it eclipse the Swan Mountain Road bike path, which has been in the works for years and now is gathering steam.
“We’re all in agreement Swan Mountain Road has a higher priority than this,” he said.
The pedestrian pathway would extend from the Silverthorne town limits at the base of Wildernest along Ryan Gulch Road to the top of the loop at the Lilypad Lakes and Buffalo Mountain trailheads.
Drescher said the idea of a pathway in Wildernest has been brewing for years, but the 1998 death of a 22-year-old woman who was walking along Ryan Gulch Road reinforced the need for it.
“When the young woman was killed, it refocused our attention on the pedestrian safety issue along Ryan Gulch Road,” he said.
Drescher pointed out that Wildernest is no longer primarily a second-home development. Many people now live there full-time, which means plenty of people are walking up and down the road. The pedestrian walkway construction also would serve to remedy drainage problems along Ryan Gulch Road.
The district proposes an 8-foot-wide walkway separated from the road by a 10-foot shoulder and drainage ditch.
Drescher anticipates a three-year construction timeline, ideally beginning in 2003.
“We could get construction under way and utilities relocated next spring and spend most of next summer constructing the walkway,” he said. “Some of it is easy. There are some other segments that are not so easy.”
Grades, the number of intersections and the need for retaining walls make those sections challenging.
“We think it may be possible to do the whole thing over two summers, but that will be a challenge,” he said.
Meanwhile, Drescher is exploring several funding possibilities.
“It may be a combination of mechanisms, including certificates of participation, reinstating the mill levy back to its former level and grants and other monies,” he said.
Drescher said the district last year reduced a mill levy designed to fund road maintenance. That mill levy could be reinstated to help pay for the walkway, he said.
The lower portion of the project that runs along Interstate 70 also may be eligible for money from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at email@example.com
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