Construction begins Tuesday on a much-debated pedestrian bridge that will cross the Animas River near 32nd Street and link the Animas River Trail with the northern extension that opened last fall.
The city of Durango says the project will improve public safety where the trail meets 32nd Street, the city’s second-busiest street.
“This connection will complete the north extension of the Animas River Trail from Memorial Park to Oxbow Park,” said Scott McClain, interim parks and recreation director, in a news release.
The city’s goal is to create a safe, easy-to-use crossing between Memorial Park on the east side of the river and the new $5.8 million extension north to Oxbow Park and Preserve on the western bank.
With the new crossing, pedestrians and cyclists traveling north will pass under 32nd Street on the east side of the river. They will then loop back up to street level and cross the Animas River using a street-level pedestrian bridge that runs parallel to the existing vehicular bridge. The pedestrian bridge will be on the north side of the vehicular bridge.
To build the loop portion of the trail, the city had to purchase a privately owned plot of land at 275 E. 32nd St. After years of back and forth between city staff members and property owners, the city successfully purchased the land parcel for $700,000 in October.
Demolition of the red house at 275 E. 32nd St. is scheduled to occur in mid-August.
Site construction, including park landscape improvements at Animas City Park and Memorial Park, will be underway until June 2022. During construction, river-goers will still be able to access the popular 32nd Street river put-in.
The construction process will include tree removal at the south end of Animas City Park, the north end of Memorial Park and 275 E. 32nd St. Significant numbers of new trees as part of the project construction will be planted in 2022, the city’s news release said.
In addition to long-term user safety provided by the project, there will be new public green space at the northwest corner of east 32nd Street and East Third Avenue, the release said.
Some community members have questioned the project’s cost and necessity.
The city has budgeted $3.4 million for the design, construction and the $700,000 property purchase. More than $2.9 million was funded by a dedicated sales tax approved by voters in 2015. About $473,000 comes from a Great Outdoors Colorado Grant, McClain said in an email to The Durango Herald.
Pedestrians and cyclists currently have the option of crossing 32nd Street with the help of a blinking pedestrian signal. They cross the Animas River using two sidewalks on either side of the Emerson-Parks Bridge (32nd Street).
The sidewalks, however, are narrower than recommended for the multi-use pathway, and the high volume of users crossing 32nd Street is a safety concern, city staff members have said in past presentations.
A previous design included a system of three bridges – one to cross the river, one to cross the railroad tracks and one to cross 32nd Street – received a lukewarm reception from residents and prompted the city to pursue the underpass option.
The Animas River Trail is an 8.4-mile paved walkway that connects south and north Durango. It is the most-used recreational asset in the city of Durango, attracting cyclists, joggers, families and other recreators.
For more information about the pedestrian crossing project, visit www.DurangoGov.org/ParkProjects, call 375-7321 or email rec@DurangoGov.org.