First it was 2017. Then it was 2018. Now, it’s looking more like 2019 before the city of Durango will make serious progress on construction of a northern extension to the Animas River Trail.
Officials with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department have spent the past two years designing the trail and Oxbow Park & Preserve and meeting with residents whose property abuts the route of the proposed paved path, said Scott McClain, assistant parks director.
“It’s taken a couple years to work through some of the property issues,” McClain said. “Part of that is getting to where we needed to be with the construction plans. It takes some time to put those together.”
The city expects to put the project out as a single bid late this year or early next year, which would include development of Oxbow Park and the 4,600-foot extension of the river trail from Animas City Park to Oxbow Park, said Cathy Metz, director of parks and recreation.
The city estimates the trail extension will cost about $5.9 million, which doesn’t include a bridge that would cross the Animas River just south of 32nd Street.
Durango City Council may set aside $1.9 million for the project in next year’s budget in addition to funds previously set aside for the project. The city also received a $1.4 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado for the trail extension, which has made it a higher priority, Metz said.
“This is the No. 1 thing we would like to get done,” she recently told City Council.
It’s a pricey length of trail because it will need retaining walls and several short bridges over wetlands, she said.
The bridge over the Animas River could bring the total cost of the extension to about $8 million, Metz said.
At Oxbow Park on Animas View Drive, the city plans to build a parking lot, restrooms, a picnic area and a river put-in for an additional $2.35 million. The park construction could be finished by fall 2019, Metz said.
Plans for the extension have been delayed in part because of the complexities of acquiring the land and designing the trail through residential neighborhoods, McClain said.
As the summer of 2017 passed without construction starting, city staff suggested the project could begin construction this year with a completion date proposed for 2019.
But, again, as the air begins to cool and the leaves start to change, construction hasn’t started.
That’s because the city wanted to make sure its plans were OK with residents, McClain said. And it wasn’t until earlier this year that the city felt confident sharing those plans with residents.
The trail extension abuts homes on Bennett Street, Fiesta Circle and Silverton Avenue.
Residents along Bennett Street, McClain said, had the most qualms with the project. They were concerned about lighting on the trail, the amount of traffic it might bring and the impact it may have on backyard views for people living next to the proposed path.
But Andy Corra, who lives in a home on Fiesta Circle, said he’s “anxiously waiting for them (the city) to start construction.”
Corra, who has lived in Durango for 35 years, said the proposed trail extension, which would abut his property, is a great asset for the community. It could provide an alternative route for people who cannot stand traffic congestion. Plus, he has negotiated with the city for trail access from his property, something that Corra said is a boon for his property value.
“It’s not going to alleviate our increasing traffic problem, but it gives those of us who hate to sit in traffic a viable alternative,” he said.
As for the construction delays, it happens, Corra said. “I’m confident that the city will get it done. I’d rather see it sooner than later,” he said.
For James Thurmond, however, the proposed trail extension, which would abut his front yard, would mean nothing less than an invasion of privacy.
“Why would I want hundreds of people tramping up and down my front yard all the time,” said Thurmond, who has owned his Silverton Road property since 1962. “Of course it’s a concern.”
Corra said that living with an extension of the trail is all part of living in an urban environment.
“I get frustrated at people who like the river trail but don’t want it in their backyard,” he said. “We live in the city, this is a city service, and it’s selfish to love the river trail and think it’s a great thing but not want it behind their house.”