A controversial plan to connect two segments of the Animas River Trail in north Durango with a three-part pedestrian bridge appears to be back on the table.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is recommending City Council move forward with the three-part bridge system that would cross the Animas River, railroad tracks and 32nd Street – a design some residents have criticized as too costly, too bulky and out of character for the view corridor.
City Council put the brakes on the plan earlier this year to conduct a series of community meetings and to consider other design options.
One of those options required purchasing property on the northwest corner of East Third Avenue and 32nd Street, which would allow the city to build an underpass and loop around to either the Emerson-Parks Bridge (32nd Street) or a new pedestrian bridge over the Animas River.
But that property, which included a house, is now under contract and is expected close Thursday.
In response, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board supported the original plan of building a $3.4 million bridge over the river, railroad tracks and 32nd Street.
“We were in favor of saying, ‘Hey, if you can’t get that option (purchasing the property), let’s go back to the original plan, which is a bridge,” said Richard Hoehlein, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
The board advised City Council to reappropriate $3.4 million for the project in the 2021 budget. If the property sale fell through, the city should pursue that option, the recommendation said. If not, then the original, much-debated combined bridge would be the best way forward.
Seth Furtney voted against the recommendation, and six other board members voted in favor. The board said it favored the underpass project over the increasingly divisive three-part bridge plan earlier this summer.
“Just because your favorite option isn’t available, doesn’t mean that you should pick an option that you didn’t favor,” Furtney said.
The Animas River Trail, a $20 million path uninterrupted by road crossings, is one of the crowning jewels of Durango’s award-winning parks and recreation system. A city survey showed 93% of Durango residents use the trail at least once per year. In 2001, the city set a goal to use only a grade-separated crossing to maintain the trail’s seamless connectivity, requiring either overpasses or underpasses at road crossings.
Both connectivity options would connect the trail to the 1-mile path leading to Oxbow Park, a $1.2 million purchase in 2012. Each had an estimated cost of $3.4 million.
During several community discussion meetings earlier in 2020, some people said the project was unnecessary, a waste of money or an eyesore.
Others said it meets the city’s vision for uninterrupted connectivity and would fulfill decades of planning for the trail. It also promised safer crossings around 32nd Street, the second busiest street in Durango.
The city’s Multimodal Advisory Board will also consider the options for the 32nd Street crossing in response to the new information about the property sale. The next step is for City Council to consider advisory board recommendations. City staff members said those discussions could happen in September at the earliest.
firstname.lastname@example.orgThis article was updated to correct the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board vote count.