Connecting the missing link

Posted 12/17/10

Jane Reuter A critical section of the East-West Regional and Lone Tree city trails will be constructed in early 2011, and open by June. The mile-plus …

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Connecting the missing link


Jane Reuter

A critical section of the East-West Regional and Lone Tree city trails will be constructed in early 2011, and open by June.

The mile-plus path will connect Bluffs Regional Park to the Willow Creek Trail on the bluff above Prairie Sky Park.

Its construction, with an estimated cost of $229,000, is a joint project of Douglas County and the City of Lone Tree. Douglas County is charged with design and construction, while Lone Tree pays for the work.

The new trail will lead hikers and bikers on a scenic bluff-top route, branching off from the Bluffs Regional Park loop trail just west of the water tanks and winding east past an overlook above the Bluffmont Estates neighborhood. There, it will connect to the Willow Creek Trail, which travels down a valley on southeast of Riverton Court to Prairie Sky Park. The Willow Creek Trail links to the C-470 Trail.

The new trail alignment passes through land owned by the Rampart Range Metro District, which serves the developing RidgeGate community. Most of the future trail already exists as a heavily rutted ranch road. Upon completion, it will be an 8-foot-wide, crushed rock path.

The small but vital section will be part of two systems – the county’s East-West Regional and Lone Tree’s city trails. When representatives of the two governments met to talk about future trail development, they learned that their ideas overlapped.

“We were trying to look at some type of connection between Bluffs Park and Willow Creek Trail,” deputy city manager Michelle Kivela said. “It turned out the county’s alignment for the East-West Trail was the perfect connector for what we were trying to achieve.”

The problem was funding: The county spent more than $1 million in trail construction in 2010, and didn’t intend to do more in 2011. So while Douglas County will do the heavy lifting and construct the trail, Lone Tree will chip in the cost.

Lone Tree will use money collected from a 2008 voter-approved sales tax increase designated for recreation and trails.

Kivela says it’s a win-win agreement.

“We needed this trail connection anyway,” she said. “This way, we’re getting it done several years earlier, but we’re not having to use staff resources to plan it and design it. It’s an extremely important connection. It really connects that area, and provides a link for Lone Tree residents using the Bluffs Park.”

Lone Tree’s Spencer Fraus will be among the trail’s users.

“I’m all for it,” said Fraus, an avid mountain biker who also regularly hikes Bluffs Regional Park. “I bicycle to work in Littleton every day. I think more people commute by bicycle than people realize. The more trails we network together, the more people will use them to recreate and commute.”

The East-West Regional Trail is an important cog in that network. When finished, it will extend for 26 miles from Highlands Ranch to Parker, providing a connection between the Highline and Cherry Creek Regional trails. Douglas County used its 2010 trails budget to build the bulk of the trail, a 17-mile stretch from Highland Ranch’s Redstone Park to Bluffs Regional Park.

Because so many other trail systems tie into the East-West Regional Trail, multi-agency partnerships are common and vital to its development.

“We kind of think of our (East-West) Regional Trail as the backbone,” Douglas County Parks and Trails Director Randy Burkhardt said. “All entities have a vested interest. By each of us adding a little, we can add exponentially to the system.”

From the Willow Creek Trail juncture, the East-West trail will continue east to RidgeGate Parkway, eventually leading under Interstate 25 and tying into the Cherry Creek trail in Parker.

No timeline is set for construction of the Lone Tree to RidgeGate Parkway leg, though discussions are ongoing.

Kivela has walked the proposed bluff-top trail alignment many times and describes it in glowing terms.

“You’re up on top of everything,” she said. “You feel like you can see almost to Nebraska from there. You can see so far in every direction — the entire Rocky Mountain Range, Denver, all of Lone Tree. Yet it seems like you’re not even in an urban area because it’s all prairie grass.”

The path also leads walkers and riders to the High Point Council Circle, a circular stone bench that provides a welcome break and long views from the bluff above Prairie Sky Park and the Lone Tree Recreation Center. Commissioned by the Rampart Range Metropolitan District, the sculpture is one of many artistic elements RidgeGate plans within the project.

Other trail legs also are planned in Lone Tree.

“Rampart Range will be building a lot of smaller trails off that (extension) for future residents and businesses in RidgeGate,” Kivela said.

Pedestrian overpass update

A pedestrian overpass at the congested Yosemite Street and Park Meadows Center Drive intersection may someday carry walkers and cyclists safely through the area.

The Park Meadows Metropolitan District and City of Lone Tree are studying the idea.

The C-470 Trail travels through the intersection and district manager Bob Blodgett said the board has heard concerns about the crossing’s safety.

“Would an underpass or overpass work? Is there even room? That is being studied,” he said.

The study’s results, expected in a couple of months, will dictate whether a preliminary design is in order.

Traffic at the interchange “is only getting worse,” Blodgett said. “We want that section of the trail to feel as safe as any other, and we don’t want to discourage usage.”

The district is paying for the $10,000 study, with the city managing it.

The paved C-470 Trail stretches about 35 miles the length of C-470 and along a portion of E-470 east of Interstate 25. It connects users to several other regional trails, including the Platte River, High Line and Cherry Creek trails.


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