With the donation of 12 acres, the city of Durango took one long-awaited step toward building a paved pedestrian trail to Three Springs.
The pathway, called the Smart 160 Trail, would connect Three Springs to the Animas River Trail, an 8-mile river walk that winds north through Durango. It’s a connection that has been long-sought – at least since the 1990s – but a patchwork of complicated land ownership and other development projects slowed the city’s progress.
This month, Chris Webb, owner of Webb Ranch near Farmington Hill, decided to donate all 12.2 acres to the city to help complete the path.
“Mr. Webb’s donation, giving us the entirety of the 12 acres, gives us flexibility with the (trail) alignment,” said Kevin Hall, assistant city manager. “Without it, we can’t make the connection.”
Webb had always been supportive of the trail, but first he wanted to wrap up road alignment discussions with the Colorado Department of Transportation on a project to build a new overpass to connect U.S. Highway 550 and U.S. Highway 160, Hall said.
Unfortunately, that $100 million bridge project, locally dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere,” stalled for several years. Last month, it leaped forward into construction, freeing Webb for Smart 160 Trail discussions, Hall said.
Before the city can accept Webb’s donation, it must conduct an environmental assessment and make sure the land title is in good order.
“We hope to get this all resolved before the end of the year,” Hall said.
Webb’s land, on the northwest side of Highway 160, is just one link in the puzzle to make the trail happen.
The city also has to navigate easement discussions with La Plata County, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and other private landowners, like the Gilleland family, which owns about 48 acres of land in the area of the hoped-for trail extension.
Hall said the other parties are supportive of the trail; it just comes down to negotiating easement details.
Three of five councilors have placed the Smart 160 Trail among their top funding priorities.
“I don’t believe we’ve served (Three Springs) equitably,” said one of those councilors, Barbara Noseworthy. “I don’t think we’re as inclusive of that community when we think about funding.”