The city could start two long-awaited Animas River Trail construction projects next year: replacing the asphalt behind River City Hall and extending the trail north to Oxbow Park.
The city has budgeted $800,000 to replace about 1,200 linear feet of asphalt trail from River City Hall to the swinging bridge. It is one of the older sections of trail, and it needs to be replaced because tree roots have lifted up the pavement, said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz. The new trail will be concrete and 10-feet wide like many other sections of the trail.
The Durango City Council has to vote to approve the resurfacing project and other parks department projects, which are part of the city’s proposed 2018 budget. Budget discussions are in the early stages, but the city will vote on it later this year.
Construction of the trail from Animas City Park to Oxbow Park, along Animas View Drive, will likely start early next year – a year later than the city planned.
The northern extension of the trail will be about a mile long and is estimated to cost $7.8 million, which will be paid for mostly with revenue from dedicated city sales tax. The city already set aside $3 million for the trail extension in the 2017 budget and in previous budgets. The trail extension is in the design stage, Metz said.
The city applied for a $2 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant to help pay for the trail extension, but the city does not want to start the project until it finds out if it will receive the grant. Grant awards are expected be announced in September, Metz said.
The first section of the northern extension will be built from Animas City Park to 36th Street. The second section will be between 36th Street and Oxbow Park. If the city receives the GOCO grant, the city may be able to build the second section next year; without grant funding, the project could be delayed.
The last stage of the project will be a bridge across the Animas River at the railroad tracks on 32nd Street, between East Second and East Third avenues. The bridge is estimated to cost $3.4 million and is included in the $7.8 million budgeted for the northern extension.
The design of the structure is not complete, but Metz expects it will need to be covered in some sections, in part to protect users from the embers from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad trains, she said.
Next year, the city may also start construction in Oxbow Park. Work on the parking lot, a river put-in and other improvements may be finished in 2019.
The city will consider allocating $850,000 in 2018 toward the $2.25 million needed for the full project, Metz said.
When Oxbow Park becomes part of the Animas River Trail system, the city would like to have the park ready for people to use. Metz said people use the park now, but it’s mostly neighbors who can walk there.
“There is no public parking provided. It’s been very difficult for the community” to use it, she said.
Councilor Sweetie Marbury expressed concern at a Durango City Council meeting this week that the city does not expect to improve an aging section of the Animas River Trail behind Durango High School until 2022.
She said she doesn’t want a substandard section of trail to be subjected to more traffic when the city begins to allow electric bikes on the trail.
“It doesn’t work for me as a city councilor, sure doesn’t work for me as someone who uses that trail,” she said.
The councilors agreed to allow e-bikes on the Animas River Trail for a one-year trial period. Metz told Marbury that she doesn’t expect more traffic, but some cyclists may trade one bike for another when the trial period begins.
The staff also plans to add a dashed yellow line along the asphalt section of trail behind Durango High School to help manage traffic.