City of Durango officials cut the ribbon – giant pair of scissors included – during an opening ceremony Tuesday to mark the completion of the Animas River Trail’s northward extension to the Oxbow Park and Preserve.
Durangoans and visitors have been hanging out at the river at Oxbow Park for years. One decade of planning and millions of dollars later, the community finally has easy, legal access to the park and a recently completed river put-in, via the Animas River Trail.
“It’s just awesome. We’re feeling great,” said Cathy Metz, director of Durango Parks and Recreation, after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Oxbow Park.
Said Mayor Dean Brookie: “It’s been a long process to get to the end of the road, if you will.”
The Animas River Trail is one of Durango’s recreational crown jewels. The city has invested more than $20 million into the trail, and a city survey showed 93% of Durango residents use it at least once per year.
For years, the trail has connected Dallabetta Park, its southernmost end near Bodo Industrial Park, to its northern terminus at 32nd Street.
In early September, the city wrapped up construction on a new river put-in at Oxbow Park and Preserve – about $3.6 million for the land and construction costs – but the Animas River Trail extension was not finished.
Now, users can follow the river trail from Dallabetta Park to Oxbow Park, a mostly uninterrupted course stretching 8 miles. The northward extension, which cost the city about $6 million, added about 1 mile to the trail.
“It was a lot of work by a lot of people, including the entire community that voted for that sales tax specifically tied to projects like this,” Brookie said. “It’s an awesome thing that we live in the type of place where this type of amenity is supported and appreciated.”
Work remains to be done on the Animas River Trail, Brookie said.
“If you’re going to create a place like this that’s going to create the amount of traffic that we anticipate here ... we’ve got a couple safety concerns, specifically at 32nd Street,” he said.
Thirty-Second Street is one of the busiest streets in Durango, and the city is exploring grade-separated crossings to mitigate safety hazards. The project has been delayed both by public opposition to some designs and management of the coronavirus pandemic.
Eventually, the Smart 160 Trail, a project with Durango and the Colorado Department of Transportation, will also extend the hard-surface trail system east along U.S. Highway 160 to Three Springs.
But Tuesday, the focus was on the completed northern end.
“We know it’s a huge recreational asset, and it’s beautiful along the Animas River greenway,” Metz said. “This will be a key trailhead and anchor for the river trail.”