Trails 2000 and the city of Durango have an opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts to build and eventually hike a new trail.
The SkyRaider Trail will connect the Powerline Trail near Molas Drive to the top of Raider Ridge. Construction started Monday in the SkyRidge Open Space.
The new “native surface” trail is about a half-mile in length and seeks to connect two existing trails to improve trail connectivity.
There were multiple requests from neighbors to create a loop for better connectivity of the trail system, said Mary Monroe Brown, executive director of Trails 2000.
“When we look at the growth of Durango and assess trail connectivity, there’s a lot of growth that has happened in the area north of town of SkyRidge and Fort Lewis College,” Monroe Brown said.
While there has been public support for the new trail, some residents have concerns about its construction, including environmental impacts such as erosion, parking and safety issues.
“Trail users will certainly be parking directly in front of our homes to access this trail,” Kelly Schultz wrote as part of a public comment period. “In (The Durango) Herald article it explains that the city cannot limit parking but will encourage trail users to use the Horse Gulch Trailhead. I will need to understand how the city is planning on doing this. The parking situation will need to be addressed whether it be ‘no parking’ signs along Molas, or a permit system that is heavily enforced.”
Molas Drive is a city-owned street, meaning parking is considered open.
Cathy Metz, director of Durango Parks and Recreation, said there will be no signage marking the trailhead on Molas Drive and the trailhead will not appear on city maps or Trails 2000 maps.
SME Environmental, a Durango-based environmental consulting company, conducted a biological assessment of the area and found “with the implementation of the above measures, the proposed trail construction, as described, should not have a significant detrimental impact on any of the sensitive environmental resources observed in the project vicinity,” according to a letter sent to the city of Durango.
SME Environmental wrote in its recommendation that a soil survey found the corridor has a severe hazard of erosion and recommended the trail be designed to avoid a concentration of stormwater runoff. According to a letter sent to the city of Durango by SME Environmental, “this will help maintain a sustainable trail and will reduce the sedimentation of downslope/downstream habitats.”
In the letter, Nathan Kirker, a biologist with SME Environmental, suggested trail construction be scheduled outside of April 1 to Aug. 31 to avoid potential conflicts with the breeding of protected migratory birds that will likely occur in the vicinity of the trail alignment. He goes on to suggest that if construction occurs in that window of time, pre-construction nesting surveys should be conducted.
A survey was conducted and found one affected nest, and as a result, the trail alignment was moved. There were other nests found in the area, but it was determined they were no longer active.
Trail crew leaders with Trails 2000 started clearing the corridor with handsaws Monday.
Trails 2000 will hold volunteer days for the SkyRaider Trail on Wednesdays and Thursdays in June with its final day of work scheduled for Saturday, June 29.
Those looking to volunteer can sign up on Trails 2000’s website. Volunteers are reminded not to park on Molas Drive and to wear appropriate clothing, including closed-toed shoes and long pants, and to bring sun protection and a water bottle. Trails 2000 will provide all tools, instruction, gloves and water needed for the trail work.