Jeffco Open Space facing additional costs for Peaks to Plains Trail

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Estimate has at least doubled, official says

By Sandy Barnes

The initial phase of the Peaks to Plains Trail project is facing escalated costs, Tom Hoby, director of Jeffco Parks and Open Space, told the Jeffco Open Space Advisory Committee on April 3.

The total cost of the trail connection from Golden to the Jefferson County line is now in the $75 million to $100 million range — more than three times the original estimate of $30 million to $35 million, Hoby said. 

“We have been looking at a 10-foot-wide concrete trail to Loveland Pass,” Hoby said. “Does it need to be a 10-foot-wide trail?” 

“We have to make some serious decisions. … We have to think about why we attempted this,” Hoby said.

To contain costs, Hoby said, it might be advisable to look at alternate alignments for the trail, its width and materials used on its surface.

The metal rails that will be placed alongside the trail are adding significantly to costs, said Scot Grossman, project manager for Jeffco Open Space.

In January, construction began on the 6-mile Clear Creek Canyon segment of the trail connecting the Mayhem Gulch Trailhead in Jefferson County to Tunnel 5 in Clear Creek County. The projected completion date for this portion is June 2015.

The extensive trail is designed to provide additional recreational opportunities for cycling, hiking, angling, kayaking, climbing and prospecting along Clear Creek.

“Connecting Golden to Idaho Springs makes a lot of sense,” Hoby said.

“I think this is going to be a nationally recognized trail,” said committee member Mike Dungan. “Saving money has to be done, (but) I don’t see how you can build a 4-foot trail for bikers and other users.”

“My appetite remains whetted for this trail,” remarked committee member Felicity Hannay. 

Partnering with other agencies involved in the project and considering realignment of the trail might be helpful, Hannay added.

To assist in making a decision about the trail project, Open Space Advisory Committee members are planning to take a trip to the construction site of the trail at Mayhem Gulch on April 24. 

“We need to have a discussion,” Hoby said. “That’s a value decision to be made.”


Alderfer/Three Sisters lease

After weighing the pros and cons of deeding the barn and house at Alderfer/Three Sisters Park to the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, open space committee members agreed it’s better to continue with a lease agreement. 

EPRD has requested a new lease for a 50-year period for 4.3 acres of the Alderfer ranch property, said Joy Lucisano, real estate coordinator for Jeffco Open Space. Since 1990, Jeffco has leased the property to EPRD, which is responsible for maintaining the two historic structures at the park.

In discussions with Scott Robson, EPRD executive director, Hoby said he had indicated his discomfort with granting the Evergreen park district a deed for the property.

“I personally don’t think this is a candidate to deeding to EPRD,” said committee member Wayne Forman. 

Deeding the parcel to Evergreen would create a “doughnut hole” in one of the Jeffco Open Space parks, he said.

“I’m still shaking my head over the benefit to EPRD,” remarked Hannay. “It’s hard for me to figure out why these 5 acres are important to them.”

“They like to be able to have this site for activities,” replied Hoby. 

“We don’t want to maintain the house and the barn,” he added. “Our preference is to lease. Deeding is not an option.”

Before making a final decision, Hoby said Robson should have the opportunity to make comments to the Open Space Advisory Committee.

“I think we should get Scott here,” he said.


Wildlife in Jeffco

Open space committee members learned about the prevalence of mountain lions and other wildlife in the area during presentations by a biologist and state wildlife researcher at the April 3 meeting.

“We were getting many calls about mountain lions,” said Matt Alldredge, a wildlife researcher for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

In response, Alldredge and other wildlife researchers began a study to track cougars on the Front Range.

“We wanted to look at movement patterns and population estimates,” he said.

After several years of studying lions in an area ranging from Lyons to Evergreen, the researchers found that they travel widely and primarily prey on deer for food. Some have traveled into Wyoming and Nebraska, Alldredge said.

Preserving open space areas is important to providing habitat for mountain lions, which are gravitating into urban areas, Alldredge pointed out.

Although they do prey on pets as a food source, mountain lions generally leave people alone, he said. Sometimes a lion may walk behind a person out of curiosity, he added. Like house cats, lions are curious, Alldredge remarked.

A protected mouse

The jumping mouse, a federally threatened species, lives in the Ranson/Edwards Homestead in Coal Creek Canyon Park, Jeffco natural resources specialist Lisa Kluesner said during her presentation.

Kluesner said she and others involved in a prototype study of natural resources in Jeffco Open Space parks found the mouse, and also a few rare grasses and plants, in the section of the park on which they were focusing.

The natural resource summary that Kluesner presented reflects a more concise standard that will be used in Jeffco parks to assess plant and animal wildlife, she said. 

By knowing what species are in open spaces, the integrity of the landscape can be improved and protected, Kluesner said.


New committee members

Recently appointed open space committee members Paul Murphy and Jacy Rock attended their first meeting on April 3. They are replacing retired board members Jan Wilkins and Kevin Burke.

Murphy is an open space volunteer and a member of Plan Jeffco, an advocacy organization in Jefferson County.

Rock serves as legal counsel for Suncor Energy and is on the board of the Dolores Project, a charitable organization that provides shelter and support for homeless women in the Denver area.