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Consultants discuss trail project

Bob Searns and Bill Neumann of DHMN Design, a Denver-based consulting firm, met with representatives of the town, county and the public on Nov. 9 and presented the results of their recent inspection of the site and plans for the proposed Lakes to Town Trail.

The trail would link downtown trails with the Pagosa Lakes area trails six miles west. It will parallel U.S. 160 and may switch from the north to the south sides of the road depending on conditions encountered along the way.

Searns and Neumann assured those at the meeting that the trail can be built. They also acknowledged it will be a complex project to complete. They emphasized that no insurmountable physical barriers to the completion of the project were discovered during their inspection.

Several key issues of this project have been identified. Broadly defined, they are sources of funds, easements and regulatory compliance.

Regarding funding, matching grants, legacy grants and transportation enhancement grants will be pursued. The current financial stresses at both the federal and state level will make this a challenge.

Obtaining all necessary easements from property owners where the trail will be located will take time and may not always be successful. The trail’s proximity to U.S. 160 will mandate compliance with a host of CDOT requirements. Wetlands exist along the trail site and will require compliance with regulations pertinent to them. Utility crossings will be encountered and requirements of the utilities will have to be satisfied.

At sites where the trail might cross U.S. 160, tunnels or overpasses will be needed. Both are expensive to build. Overpass grades are inherent in their basic design and ADA requirements must be complied with. Tunnels are even more expensive to construct and pose potential security issues for trail users.

The time involved in completing this project will be measured in years, and preliminary cost estimates are not yet available.

The next phase of the project will be the completion of a draft plan by DHM Design. Searns and Neumann will present it in mid January on a date to be determined.

Following the meeting with government representatives, another meeting for the public was held. Twelve people attended.

Searns and Neumann presented an overview of the trail project and the findings of their physical inspection of the trail site, then invited questions or comments from the audience.

All comments from the public were positive. They identified many benefits being derived from the trail. Pagosa resident Nikki Taylor said, “We need this trail in order to compete with other towns in this area that have them.” She added that, “Trail-related recreation was becoming very popular and recognized as being both healthy and fun.”

A question was raised concerning whether the trail could be completed in phases so that use of parts of it could begin as soon as a section is finished. Searns gave assurance that this was exactly how the project was envisioned to unfold.

Another question posed was if the trail could be constructed of packed gravel instead of asphalt or concrete in order to hold down costs. Or, alternatively, could the trail be just packed gravel initially, then paved or concreted at points in time in the future in order to spread out the costs. Searns indicated this would be investigated, but also said some grants might contain time requirements for completion that could make this idea unworkable.

This meeting concluded with Searns encouraging members of the public present to attend the mid-January presentation and he recommended they actively recruit additional people to attend.

“The more, the better,” he said.