Eagle Valley Trail seeks funds for final 12 miles | SummitDaily.com

Eagle Valley Trail seeks funds for final 12 miles

Ali Longwell
Vail Daily
Sen. John Hickenlooper rides the Eagle Valley Trail in August 2016. Now, only 12 miles of construction and nearly $40 million stand between the completion of the trail.
Lexi Christensen/Vail Daily Archive

The Eagle Valley Trail is nearing completion, with only 12 miles remaining to connect all of Eagle County’s communities with the 63-mile paved trail. However, with the remaining portions projected to cost around $38.2 million to complete, the group leading the charge has an uphill battle to reach its goal of completing it by 2024.

“We decided it’s time to finish this thing. We’ve got 12 more miles left. It’s well over $30 million, especially with construction inflation.” said Kevin Sharkey, a member of the Eagle Valley Trail campaign committee, at the Avon Town Council’s Aug. 9 meeting. “The county commissioners have said, ‘Let’s just get this done.'”

Not only will the trail connect all the communities in the county, but once it’s fully complete, it will allow individuals to ride their bikes over 140 miles from Breckenridge to Aspen, without using highways.

The remaining 12 miles of the trail consists of four sections:

  • Dotsero to Gypsum Duck Ponds: 1.7 miles and $2.6 million
  • Horn Ranch to Edwards: 7.5 miles and $26.2 million
  • EagleVail to Dowd Junction: 1.5 miles and $7.9 million
  • Minturn Connection: 1.3 miles and $1.5 million

Earlier this summer, construction began on the Dotsero to Gypsum connector. Construction on the EagleVail to Dowd Junction and Minturn Connection sections are scheduled to take place in 2023, with the final section in Edwards — the “largest missing” and most expensive segment, Sharkey said — scheduled for 2024.

And in addition to the Dotsero to Gypsum construction, the organization is looking to install new signs this summer to create more cohesion and recognition along the trail, Sharkey said.

In 2021 the Eagle County Commissioners committed $22 million in funding to help complete the trail. According to a report from ECO Trails, the county put up the main county campus buildings as collateral for funding.

The report adds that ECO Trails is projecting that “$13.2 million will come from small contributions from local government agencies, larger grants from private foundations, and state and federal programs.”

And as for the remaining $3 million, the organization plans to rely on community members and fundraising.

“That last $3 million comes from private fundraising and that comes from our local community,” Sharkey said. “It takes the whole valley.”

The importance of these final connectors is vital to meeting the trail’s primary missions, said Robin Thompson, the campaign consultant for ECO Trails, at the meeting.

According to a feasibility study conducted by Thompson earlier this year — in which she talked to community members about the importance and value of the trail — there are six main goals of the trail.

This includes connecting the community, addressing climate change, creating quality of place, providing alternate modes of transportation to achieve more sustainable tourism opportunities, creating economic opportunities for local businesses, and ensuring equitable access to safe routes between all individuals and communities.

In talking with community members for this study, Thompson said “the big one was connecting our community because where the sections of trail are not completed are some of our lower-income communities.”

Specifically, Thompson talked about the importance of the final Edwards connector, where once completed, kids will have a safe way to walk to and from school from the nearby mobile home park without having to navigate U.S. Highway 6.

Additionally, Thompson said that a local bike shop owner called the trail “his lifeline,” as it gives individuals a safe place to ride, which with the rising popularity of e-bikes, people can also now go farther along the trail.  

“We know it’s important to people to finish that trail,” Thompson said.

Currently, the organization has been seeking letters of support for grant applications from the various municipalities impacted by the trail. Sharkey said that these letters “are part of the grant game.”

Sharkey added that the group was “going after that big, big grant money,” specifically referencing the GOCO Centennial grant program. This program, according to its website, allows for investments in “high-value, once-in-a-generation visions and projects that will create lasting impacts on the Centennial State and future generations.”

With 12 miles left and two years to hit the goal for completion, the end may finally to be in sight after nearly 25 years of work for the Eagle Valley Trail.

To learn more, visit EagleValleyTrail.org.

This story is from VailDaily.com.

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