Eagle Valley Trail seeks funds for the last 12 miles

Senator John Hickenlooper hikes the Eagle Valley Trail in August 2016. Now only 12 miles of construction and nearly $40 million separates the trail from completion.
Lexi Christensen/Vail Daily Archive

The Eagle Valley Trail is nearing completion, with only 12 miles remaining to connect all Eagle County communities with the 63-mile paved trail. However, with the remaining parts expected to cost around $38.2 million, the group leading the charge has an uphill battle to meet their goal of completing it by 2024.

“We decided it was time to end this thing. We still have 12 miles left. That’s well over $30 million, especially with construction inflation. said Kevin Sharkey, a member of the Eagle Valley Trail campaign committee, at the Aug. 9 meeting of the Avon City Council. “The county commissioners said, ‘Let’s just do it.'”

Not only will the trail connect all communities in the county, but when fully completed, it will allow individuals to cycle more than 140 miles from Breckenridge to Aspen, without using highways.

The remaining 12 miles of the trail consist of four sections:

  • Dotsero to Gypsum Duck Ponds: 1.7 miles and $2.6 million
  • Horn Ranch to Edwards: 7.5 miles and $26.2 million
  • EagleVail to Dowd Junction: 1.5 miles and $7.9 million
  • Minturn Connection: 1.3 miles and $1.5 million

Earlier this summer, construction of the Dotsero Gypsum Connector began. Construction of the EagleVail sections at Dowd Junction and Minturn Connection is scheduled to take place in 2023, with the final section at Edwards – the “largest missing” and most expensive segment, Sharkey said – scheduled for 2024.

And in addition to the Dotsero to Gypsum construction, the organization is looking to install new signs this summer to create more cohesion and recognition along the trail, Sharkey said.

In 2021, Eagle County Commissioners committed $22 million in funding to help complete the trail. According to a report by ECO Trailsthe county set up the main county campus buildings as collateral for funding.

The report adds that ECO Trails anticipates that “$13.2 million will come from small contributions from local government agencies, larger grants from private foundations, and state and federal programs.”

And as for the remaining $3 million, the organization plans to rely on community members and fundraising.

“This last $3 million is from private fundraising and it’s from our local community,” Sharkey said. “He’s taking the whole valley.”

The importance of these end connectors is critical to fulfilling the trail’s primary missions, said Robin Thompson, campaign consultant for ECO Trails, at the meeting.

According to a feasibility study conducted by Thompson earlier this year – in which she spoke to community members about the importance and value of the trail – there are six main goals for the trail.

This includes connecting the community, fighting climate change, creating a quality place, providing alternative modes of transport to create more sustainable tourism opportunities, creating economic opportunities for local businesses and ensuring equitable access to safe routes among all individuals and communities.

In speaking with community members for this study, Thompson said “the most important thing was to connect our community because where the trail sections are not completed are some of our low-income communities.”

Specifically, Thompson spoke of the importance of the final Edwards Connector, where once completed children will have a safe way to walk to school from the nearby mobile home park without having to navigate the US Highway 6.

Additionally, Thompson said a local bike shop owner called the trail “his lifeline” because it provides individuals with a safe place to ride, which with the growing popularity of e-bikes , now allows people to go further along the trail.

“We know it’s important for people to finish this track,” Thompson said.

Currently, the organization is soliciting letters of support for grant applications from the various municipalities affected by the trail. Sharkey said the letters “are part of the grant game.”

Sharkey added that the group was “looking for that big, big grant,” specifically referring to GOCO’s Centennial Grant Program. This program, according to its websiteenables investments in “high-value, once-in-a-generation visions and projects that will create lasting impacts on the Centennial State and future generations.”

With 12 miles remaining and two years to reach the completion goal, the end may finally be in sight after nearly 25 years of hard work for the Eagle Valley Trail.

To learn more, visit EagleValleyTrail.org.

This story comes from VailDaily.com.