A 5-mile stretch of Clear Creek straddling Jefferson and Clear Creek county open spaces will be the focus of a $4.6 million paved-trail project that promises to open up the waterway for kayakers, runners, hikers and cyclists to enjoy.
The entire project will cost a projected $10.2 million, including $4.5 million in matching funds from Jeffco Open Space and $1.1 million from Clear Creek Open Space.
Great Outdoors Colorado announced the award June 19 as part of a $29.5 million statewide River Corridors Initiative, conceived to provide outdoor recreation opportunities on the water close to where people live and to help meet the demand for more trails. GOCO received $56 million in lottery proceeds in fiscal 2011 to make grants to government-sponsored outdoor projects.
The Clear Creek and Jefferson County open space departments will use the money to build a 6-mile paved trail linking the existing Mayhem Gulch Trailhead and parking lot in Jeffco to Tunnel No. 6 and the Oxbow Parcel in Clear Creek County. Four bridges and four new parking areas are proposed. The grant requires the project be completed in three years.
The segment to be built will be part of the Peaks to Plains Trail that will eventually stretch 65 miles from Loveland Pass to a junction with the South Platte River Trail in Adams County.
Clear Creek is known for the striking cliff formations towering over the riverbed and the extremely rugged terrain in general. There are few established public access points other than Mayhem Gulch; many impromptu pullout spots exist where people stop and have picnics and fish.
The accessibility of the river, the scenic potential, the support from local communities and the statewide significance of the project all helped persuade the GOCO board that the Peaks to Plains Trail was a worthy project, said Tom Hoby, executive director of Jefferson County Open Space.
"It's spectacular back there. It's one of the places where the creek detaches from the road. When you are in the Oxbow area, you don't even realize there is a road," Hoby said. The Oxbow area is south of U.S. 6 near Tunnel 5.
"The other appeal was, this is a statewide connection between the South Platte River east of DIA and all the way to Glenwood Springs," Hoby said. "One of the most challenging links along the corridor is the Clear Creek link."
"Another thing is it provides so many outdoor recreation opportunities for so many, within 30 minutes of the state's largest population center. We are talking about hiking, biking, running, climbing, fishing, gold-panning and a host of activities that other rivers don't offer," Hoby said.
When complete, the canyon trail will exist as a stand-alone element, but someday there could be connections to Golden and to the popular cycling trails in Clear Creek and Summit counties.
The original proposal called for improvements all the way from Golden to the county line, but GOCO allocated two-thirds of what Jefferson County originally requested. "GOCO asked us to work with Clear Creek County. It made sense to work from both ends to have enough to bring people in there," Hoby said.
"People will be able to do a 12-mile loop. If you put two legs together you have a piece of statewide significance...GOCO's big point and what we stressed is establishing a standalone element that is usable and sets up the momentum to get further funding," said Martha Tableman, director of Clear Creek Open Space Department.
Thanks to the taxpayers and voters who supported the creation of the Jeffco Open Space purchase program in 1972 and the bond program in 1998, most of the land along the river has been purchased or otherwise protected from development. Jeffco has spent $60.6 million and acquired more than 12,600 acres in Clear Creek Canyon in the past two decades, according to the Open Space grant proposal.
Clear Creek County voters approved a 1-mill tax levy and a bond authority for an open space acquisition program in 1999.
Contact Vicky Gits at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.
Elements of the trail
(Source: Grant proposal concept paper "Clear Creek Canyon Park: Creating Peaks to Plains Trail and Connecting People to Clear Creek")
Total grant: $4.6 million; total projected cost:$10.2 million
Matching funds: $4.5 million (Jeffco); $1.1 million (Clear Creek)
Grant participants: Clear Creek and Jefferson County open space departments, Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge; Apex Park & Rec District, Prospect Rec District.
Mileage: 6 miles, paved trail
Route: East of Mayhem Gulch Trailhead on U.S. 6 to county line to Tunnel No. 6 in Clear Creek County
Construction deadline: three years
Proposed amenities: bridges, four; parking lots, four; restroom facilities, one
Linkages: Trail forms segment of the future 65-mile trail from the South Platte River Trail in Adams County to Loveland Pass. Potential for connections between Beaver Brook Trail in Mount Vernon Canyon and access to Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway, Denver Mountain Parks and other open space parks.
Activities: fishing, kayaking, rock climbing, picnicking, biking and hiking.
A video is available at http://youtu.be/VZqxyKHI23M.