Imagine riding your bike north out of town all the way to Hermosa on a separated bike trail that has no huge climbs or big drops, out for a casual lunch, meetings or just for fun with your family.
Last year, several changes in my life made me believe we really need a bike trail from Hermosa to Durango. Then, I observed that there is a 70-foot unused highway easement on the west side of 550, all the way to Hermosa. The time is now to start the process and build it.
For the Fourth of July weekend, our family visited our daughter in Aspen. I was really impressed by what the city has done with its trail system. The trail system provides for all manner of bikes, and connects the town directly to a 42-mile-long paved bike trail to Glenwood Springs. One day, we rode the trail down valley 8 miles to Woody Creek for lunch. By 1 p.m., there were probably 150 bikes parked outside.
Later last summer, my wife and I were driving home from County Road 201 (Upper Hermosa Creek Road). She was driving, so I daydreamed out the window to the west, then it hit me. The Colorado Department of Transportation has about 70 feet of grass on the west edge of the highway to the right-of-way fence. There is enough room to accommodate a multi-use trail to town as well as future lane expansions for the highway.
Twenty years ago, Durango was planning to connect what was then the future Three Springs development to city infrastructure and included a trail connection called Smart 160. That trail connection might finally be built this year. Hermosa Valley already has the population density, but no trail, nor a plan for one. If it is going to take 20 years to get a trail into the system, we need to act now.
As it turns out, it is a bit cumbersome. First, we need the Southwest Planning Regional Transportation folks to add the trail to the 2045 Long Range Plan. Once that is done, the Regional Transportation folks need to prioritize the trail high enough for it to end up on the CDOT 10-year plan. CDOT is not planning to add projects to the 10-year plan for at least another four years.
This system of prioritizing regional road projects is probably appropriate for roads, but for a multimodal trail, in today’s world, I am not so sure it fits well in a legacy road-based system. There should probably be an exemption or a fast-track process for projects that have the clear ability to get people out of their cars, reduce carbon dioxide, ozone, particulate emissions and other greenhouse gases. That is not to mention the dramatic increase in safety by getting pedestrians, joggers and cyclists off of CR 203, CR 250, and the shoulder of Highway 550, which is now used as a bike lane but is very dangerous. And what a perfect way to connect the Hermosa Valley to the city.
The beauty of a trail from Hermosa is that the incline is smooth and will attract runners, rollerbladers, family bicyclists and e-bike riders. Recreation is certainly a component in this trail proposal, but beyond that I think that e-bikes will change transportation as much as the change from horses to bicycles in the early 1900s. When a rider can go more than twice as fast, with less than half of the effort, transportation will change. A great reason to consider this a multimodal transportation proposal.
My first moniker for the Hermosa to Durango Trail project was Smarter, Better, Faster 550. Humor intended. To voice your support for this trail, please visit: hermosatodurangobiketrail.com.
Durango resident Bob Wolff is a retired architect, real-estate developer and volunteer on various water boards.