WESTERN SLOPE Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail still growing
By Bill Tiedje
Connecting the communities of Ridgway and Montrose to the river of its namesake, the Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail continues to grow slowly and steadily, bringing increased river access and natural space for the enjoyment of the region.
This summer, the City of Montrose submitted a grant application under the Colorado Department of Transportation's Transportation Alternatives Program to build approximately 2.8 more miles of paved trail south of Montrose.
The new paved portion, if funded, would run parallel to US 550, starting approximately 3/4 of a mile south of History Colorado's Ute Indian Museum and ending at Trout Road.
Montrose Assistant City Manager Rob Joseph, via e-mail, explained, "This project is supported by inclusion in Montrose County's 2010 Master Plan and the City's 2011 Uncompahgre Riverway Master Plan."
Joseph added the trail segment would connect to a larger trail system identified in the 2008 City of Montrose Comprehensive Plan and, when complete, will link trails throughout the Montrose Community.
In Ridgway, Town Manager Jen Coates noted the 2011 Ridgway Land Use Plan had mapped the Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail extending south from Hartwell Park to connect with the town's athletic fields.
No timeline or funding has yet been secured by the town to develop this portion.
Coates also added that a trail easement had been secured within The Preserve, a planned unit development (PUD) located adjacent to the river and east of the athletic fields.
Since its inception in 1989, retired Bureau of Land Management advisor Chip Marlow has been the brains and the brawn of Uncompahgre RiverWay, Inc., serving as chair of the board of directors as well as a visible on-site supporter.
The non-profit organization was responsible for securing grant support and easements that led to the multi-use trail connection between Ridgway's Hartwell Park and Ridgway State Park.
Writing in the "Brief History of the Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail," Marlow explained the original idea was to convert the old, abandoned Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad grade to a trail and greenbelt, running along the river from Ridgway to Montrose.
"Over the years, Uncompahgre RiverWay, Inc., negotiated six separate easements with private landowners along the trail and raised approximately $700,000 in actual construction grant dollars for the project," wrote Marlow.
"The ultimate vision is still to connect Ridgway State Park with Montrose, primarily utilizing the abandoned railroad grade," he continued. "However, potential highway expansion plans and private property issues and challenges, primarily north of the reservoir, must first be addressed and planned for."
Marlow, who continues to maintain portions of the trail and adjacent trees, insisted that none of the Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail in Ridgway would have been possible without the "generous donors" who gave easements on private land to make this project possible.
They were as follows: San Miguel Power Association, Inc., Richard and Frances Tisdel, Dennis and Geraldine Weaver, John and Wilma Lowe, Marian and Dale Sanders and Henry and Frances Kleinman.
The first portion of the trail connecting Hartwell Park to a 20-acre BLM parcel was completed in 1994. The following year a group of donors and local entities constructed a walk-in park and "watchable wildlife area" at that location, one mile north of Ridgway.
In 2000, the current trail section was completed, connecting the town of Ridgway to the state park.
The trail system was built with grant support from the Federal Highway Administration's Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act; Great Outdoors Colorado; the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Program; and, construction support from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.
"Conceptually, the thought is still a great idea," said Marlow.