RIDGWAY – A quest to create 20 miles of new single-track mountain bike trails received a boost from Ridgway Town council last week. The Ridgway Trails Group, which intends to create 23 new trails for bikers of all levels on three square miles of Bureau of Land Management and Ridgway State Park lands north of Ridgway, gained council’s unanimous support for the project Wednesday.
Council agreed to draft a letter of support to the BLM after a presentation by Rodney Fitzhugh of the Ridgway Trails Group describing the trail-building concept. They also said the group could seek the help of town staff in finding any grant monies available. Close to 30 supporters of the project – some who came from as far away as Silverton – attended the meeting.
“We would like to see a trail system grow up here just as it has been done around Fruita,” Fitzhugh said of the town adjacent to Grand Junction that has made a name for itself as a top mountain biking destination on the Western Slope. “Specifically, we are trying to build up a trail system on 2,000 acres of BLM, DOW [Department of Wildlife] and Colorado State Parks lands. Ultimately, we want to build 25 miles of new single-track trails. To get it done it will, of course, take time, manpower and money.”
The BLM land being proposed for the trails already contains a system of jeep roads and game trails and is designated open travel. Fitzhugh said officials with the Ridgway State Park have said they intend to follow the BLM’s lead on the approval process. The BLM is currently creating an overall travel management plan.
“They are trying to complete that process before they entertain our plans,” Fitzhugh said, which is estimated to happen in late 2009 or early 2010. “We are trying to influence them to allow us to shortcut that process a little bit to help speed the process up. From the town, we are hoping that you will express support of this to the BLM.”
“The BLM allowing you guys to circumvent [the lengthy management plan process] or getting them to move on it sooner needs to happen,” Councilmember Paul Hebert said.
The Ridgway Trails Group has already mapped out all existing trails and applied for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant. “We are trying to find somebody right now to bid on our environmental assessment and so forth,” said Fitzhugh. “If we get the GOCO grant, we could get planning stuff done sometime this summer, provided that the BLM lets us.” If that occurs, the project could be seen as shovel ready and thus have a chance at picking up some of the federal stimulus package money.
“What I would throw out is the problem for all of us is that nobody has any money and we would be crazy to rely on any stimulus money making it this far,” Mayor Pro Tem John Clark said. “I think the best we can supply you is the support and getting with the BLM and telling them we highly support this project.”
Town Manager Greg Clifton agreed.
“I think overall it is something that we are very supportive of,” Clifton said. “The area seems like a very good candidate for this sort of thing.”
Plans for the new trail system include three main trailheads, including one located just east of Ridgway State Park off U.S. Highway 550 that would link to a majority of easy trails. A second trailhead would be at the south end of the system off Ouray County Road 10 that would cater to Ridgway users. A parking lot at this trailhead is intended to serve no more than 10 vehicles and no horse trailers. A third trailhead designed to serve as an entrance to intermediate trails would be located near Ouray County Road 8.
According to informational documents provided by the trails group, a future consideration of the project is to connect the trails to the Dutch Charley area of Ridgway State Park using an existing and expanded culvert under Highway 550 to provide bikers a safe area to cross the highway. This access point would provide the trail system a fourth trailhead convenient for state park visitors. The feasibility of using the culvert near Dutch Charley to accommodate human and wildlife crossing has yet to be determined by engineers.
This trail system would ultimately tie into a larger regional trails system that includes the proposed Galloping Goose trail connecting Telluride to Montrose via Ridgway; the San Juan Hut trail systems that connect Telluride to Moab; and Montrose area trails like the Tabaguache, connecting Montrose to Grand Junction.
Click here for a map of the proposed trail system