The Animas River Trail northern extension isn’t quite ready for public use, but that hasn’t stopped the curious from walking the mile-long dirt path now extending from Animas City Park to Oxbow Park and Preserve, city staff and nearby residents said.
City contractors have paved about 1,000 linear feet with concrete along the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad tracks in north Durango, said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz. The path for the trail has been established with graded dirt, and the site remains closed to the public until the planned completion in 2020, she said.
“The alignment of the trail is very visible,” Metz said.
The visibility has enticed people to traverse the trail when contractors are away on weekends or in the evenings, she said.
North Durango resident Tim Wolf, whose property abuts the trail, has been critical of the city’s proposal for years, in part for the potential of more people trespassing to get to the Animas River, he said. The concern has now become a reality, Wolf said.
“People are crossing over my property to get to the river,” he said. “That’s an issue that’s been increasing.”
It’s clear that people want access to the river in the northernmost part of Durango, so Parks and Recreation created a temporary path through the construction zone at Oxbow Park and Preserve to give the public a way to use the river without crossing private property, Metz said.
But there’s still no parking at Oxbow Park and Preserve, so space and accessibility are limited, she said.
“This is for people who live up there who want to get to water’s edge,” Metz said.
The construction also seems to be taking longer than anticipated, Wolf said. Contractors severed an old and unidentified sewer pipe at the intersection of 36th Street and Silverton Avenue that slowed construction, Metz said.
“We knew the trees that we needed to limb up or remove and replace,” she said. “The surprises that you see on construction projects are typically underground.”
It’s not the delay that frustrated Wolf but rather the way contractors are constructing the project.
“They’re just not making a lot of progress. I’m surprised,” he said. “Where they’re building this, they keep going over it over and over and over.”
Construction crews plan to finish laying concrete this year, Metz said. Then, in spring, the city plans to install landscaping before opening the trail to the public. The trail should open to the public some time next year, she said.
For Wolf, the completion can’t come soon enough.
“It’s obvious that almost all neighbors do not want the trail, didn’t want it put where it was put,” he said. “ ... Just get the darn thing done.”