This article is courtesy of the Summit Daily Newspaper.
August 23, 2004
SUMMIT COUNTY - For a community that reveres recreation the way Paris loves its Louvre, it
doesn't seem out of turn to put an $11.8 million price tag on a strip of asphalt that will
complete the missing link in Summit County's 55-mile recreation path system.
The 10-foot-wide, 4.8-mile ribbon of pavement proposed on Swan Mountain would complete a
loop around Dillon Reservoir - one of the area's coveted recreation amenities.
The legacy project is championed by the county's Open Space and Trails Program, which raised
more than $1 million in the past eight months to get the connection started.
Within six weeks crews will survey and stake the path. Construction on the first segment is
expected to begin next spring.
The U.S. Forest Service, which controls public lands on Swan Mountain, completed an
Environmental Assessment and approved the proposal in January 2003.
"The next step was to get our arms around how much this will cost and what sort of funds
need to be raised for it," said Todd Robertson, director of open space and trails.
Estimated cost for the entire linkage is $11.8 million. The price tag caused sticker shock,
but costs are high because topography on the mountain is steep and talused.
The four-step plan
The plan, as directed by the Summit Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), is to eat the
elephant one bite at a time by dividing the project into four segments.
The Lowry segment is tagged for completion first to connect the back side of the Summit Cove
neighborhoods with Swan Mountain Road about three-quarters of the way to Sapphire Point at
the mountain's crest.
The second phase, the Sapphire segment, would take the path up to the point.
"In the interim, cyclists can travel downhill (toward Farmer's Korner) the same speed as the
cars," Robertson said. "For people who aren't cyclists, they can use the recpath to access
Sapphire Point - a good destination."
The cost estimate for the 1.5-mile Lowry segment is $1.845 million. About half of the cash
is in hand.
"A year ago we didn't have the $1 million that we have now," Robertson said. "It's a very
substantial capital project and it will take a lot of sources and a lot of work to raise the
funds to construct this."
The third Blue River segment will extend the path to the Blue River inlet near Farmer's
The final segment will complete the project by connecting the north end of Swan Mountain
with Keystone, Dillon and the existing recreation path on Highway 6.
Try, try again
A setback came this spring when the Swann Mountain project was not chosen as a finalist for
nearly $100 million in Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) funds earmarked for statewide legacy
projects next year.
The town of Silverthorne, aiming to connect and improve its recreation path along the Blue
River, is a finalist for that $9.8 million project and is waiting for GOCO 's December
"We were disappointed but not hugely surprised in that there's so much competition for the
GOCO dollars," Robertson said. "We are definitely hurt by the fact this is an expensive
The GOCO grant cycle a bust, Robertson turned his attention to other grant opportunities and
sources of funding.
A $468,000 Colorado Department of Transportation grant was secured this summer through a
program earmarking enhancement funds for transportation that is not automobile specific.
Another $200,000 grant was secured in May from Colorado State Trails.
Robertson budgeted $153,000 in public use area fees, which are secured through new
residential development in unincorporated areas, and $199,000 through the Conservation Trust
Fund. That money is generated by the Colorado lottery.
The BOCC will consider the two budget items in October.
General fund money is not expected to be earmarked for the project in 2005.
While grant writing continues, Robertson launched an agreement with the Northwest Colorado
Council of Governments to set up a private fundraising effort through the council's
The council helps communities throughout the five-county region with consulting,
commissioned studies and other assistance.
The foundation was set up to help raise money for community projects like the Blue River
restoration in Silverthorne below the Dillon Dam, where it raised $200,000.
"We will be looking for money locally and statewide," said the council's director of member
services, Liz Finn. "The first step is to do a feasibility study to determine the
willingness to give."
Known as "Colorado's Playground," Summit County is a frequent destination for thousands of
Front Range residents. Finn said the foundation will be approaching the state's private
sector in trying to fund the project.
If completed, the round-the-lake connection will be another feather in the area's marketing
cap, adding to the many amenities already enjoyed here.