proposed trail

An aerial view of a portion of the proposed trail. If their GOCO grant is successful, the city will receive $2 million in state funding for the $3 million project. (Submitted photo)

• City, MRD in running for GOCO final round

• Project would add more trails, underpasses

• Goal is to increase non-motorized access to outdoor assets

With one hurdle cleared, the City of Montrose and Montrose Recreation District are eyeing the finish line, where a potential $2 million grant awaits.

The city and MRD applied earlier this year for Great Outdoors Colorado funding that would build a total of 2.25 miles of new trails, with underpasses, on both ends of town to connect more of the public with parks and recreational opportunities.

The entities recently received good news: The proposed “Connecting the People to Their Parks and Recreation” project survived the first round in the selection process, and they were invited to submit a full application for funding.

“Both the rec district and the city will be partners on the implementation. We’ll both have pieces in the fulfillment of the grant project if we’re successful,” said Virgil Turner, city director of Innovation and Citizen Engagement.

“We passed the first step,” MRD Director Ken Sherbenou said. According to him, Montrose is one of “the elite eight” communities to be invited to submit a full proposal, which is due Aug. 3. The applicants expect to hear sometime in September and if successful, the city and MRD will receive $2 million of the $3 million project cost.

Competition remains fierce. GOCO in the first round received requests for $28 million-worth of projects, which were winnowed down to about $14 million-worth still in the running, including Montrose’s Connecting proposal. But GOCO is only awarding $9 million.

“Our chances are good in that sense, but we are also among communities that are very strong applicants,” Sherbenou said.

He called the proposed project a “game-changer” that will dramatically move the town’s trails forward.

The proposed southern alignment would add 0.75 miles of trails from the roundabout at Ogden Road by the rec center to the river trail on the west side of town, via an underpass that uses an existing bridge at Townsend Avenue/U.S. 550.

The 1.5-mile northern section would begin where the West Main trailhead currently ends, using the bridge there for an underpass, and connect into the Colorado Outdoors project along North Grand Avenue.

“A lot of the trail network is already owned by the city,” said Turner. “The Connect initiative does what it says: It connects the trails, and those connections will connect the people who live in areas around the trail to parks and the recreation system.”

At present, most people can only access the Baldridge Park complex and its opportunities by vehicle, Sherbenou said.

“GOCO is very interested in encouraging people to walk, and bike … to those resources,” he said.

“Everyone is driving to use those wonderful parks. Trails are the No. 1 highest need, according to surveys.”

Turner called the grant opportunity exciting.

“GOCO is very competitive. We think we have a competitive project,” he said.

Plus, the Connect project “dovetails nicely” with a Colorado Health Foundation Healthy Places Grant application the city is putting forward, Turner said.

This project, “Building a Healthier Montrose,” hopes to “activate public places” to help reduce childhood obesity and chronic disease.

“The City of Montrose is really focused on this aspect of our community being attractive to people looking for an active lifestyle. It is an area we want to make strides in,” Turner said.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist and the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter at @kathMDP.

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