Stage and Rail Trail Master Plan published

Master Plan front cover

Following a year-long grant funded project, the draft Master Plan for the proposed 64-mile long Salida to Leadville Stage and Rail Trail (S&RT) has been published. During the week of April 13, 2015, the draft Plan was presented to the Trail’s three major potential management partners – the Chaffee County Commissioners, the Lake County Commissioners, and the Colorado State Parks/Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (CPW/AHRA). Over the following weeks it will be presented to additional potential partners including the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service-Leadville Ranger District, the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the towns of Salida, Buena Vista and Leadville, all of whom have been directly consulted in developing the draft.

Here’s an orientation map of the full extent of the proposed Stage and Rail Trail – see below for links to download this and other parts of the draft Plan.

Orientation mapInitial reception has been favorable, with both Counties’ Commissioners moving to make formal commitments in principle to designating the trail within their jurisdictions after initial coordination steps have been completed. The CPW/AHRA management team, which has been supportive of the concept from its initial formulation, now has the detailed planning document it requested in order to formally consider how to proceed. Likely this S&RT Plan will be a candidate for integration into the on-going revision of the AHRA’s river management plan, which itself will be open for public comment and contributions over the coming months.

LC Commissioners

Lake County Commissioners Bruce Hicks, Dolores Semsak and Mike Bordogna also received the draft Plan and signaled their commitment on behalf of Lake County.

CC Commissioners

Chaffee County Commissioners Dave Potts, Dennis Giese and Frank Holman join S&RT volunteer leader Alan Robinson after their Board expressed willingness to commit in principle to designating the S&RT in Chaffee County.

During both the Feasibility Study completed in June, 2012 and the development of the draft Master Plan, there has been extensive consultation not only with potential management partners, but also with other state and Federal agencies, affected private land owners, recreational interest groups and the general public. Issues of concern to private land owners and residents of local communities have been heard and documented, and adjustments to a preferred trail alignment or location of trail-related facilities have been made. Potential environmental impacts have been noted including possible disturbance to Bighorn, elk, raptors and other species dependent on the river corridor through which the proposed trail would pass; additional adjustments of a preferred alignment have been made and recommendations for possible mitigation through management policies have been outlined. It is anticipated that further state- or Federally-mandated environmental studies including opportunities for public comment will need to be scheduled.

Over the 5-year planning period a list of involved and interested parties has been developed, now running to over 220, with 170 Facebook contacts. All are receiving email notice of the availability of the draft Plan here on GARNA’s Stage and Rail Trail webpage. They – and anyone interested – are invited to download all or selected sections of the draft Master Plan according to the following options:

All maps in a package

If you are interested in viewing all eight section maps with the trail’s proposed preferred alignment and location of all facilities in a single document, without background text, start here (7.1MG)

Major Plan Elements

The full draft Master Plan is divided into three major elements:

Chapters 1-4, including Executive Summary, Introduction, Background, Management Policies and Implementing Partners (2.8MG)

Chapter 5 contains Section Alignments and Recommendations, including all section maps plus detailed section descriptions (11.1MG)

Chapter 6 and Appendices includes Next Steps, Cost Estimates and extensive further background (2.3MG)

What happens next?

Publishing the draft Master Plan is definitely not in itself designation of the S&RT nor an invitation to the public to seek out and use sections of the proposed trail that are not yet signed or open to public use. The draft is simply a proposal which must be considered and acted on by the potential implementing and managing partners. As a project that involves two counties, three towns, a State Park, CDOT and several other agencies, it may be some time before formal designation takes place, if at all. Indications are favorable but much preliminary discussion on coordination and further detailed studies may be involved. Over the next 12-18 months, GARNA and its S&RT volunteer team will continue to facilitate coordination amongst the potential partners. They will explore grant funding options that would, if successful, establish a non-profit coordinating body with permanent staff to help oversee trail designation and assist partners in obtaining grant funding for future phased implementation.

Periodic progress reports will appear here and on the project’s Facebook page.

If you have particular questions, comments or perhaps to offer to get involved, you can email Alan Robinson at subject line S&RT Comment. For the moment, this will be the most effective way of insuring your comment gets a direct response or is passed along to a potential partner if appropriate.

GARNA and its S&RT volunteer Team are excited to have reached a very important milestone by making this detailed draft Plan available to decision-makers who may now choose to bring it to formal designation. We want to acknowledge and thank all those potential partners including the Lake and Chaffee County Commissioners, the AHRA and BLM river managers, the town councils of Salida, Buena Vista and Leadville, Colorado Department of Transportation, US Forest Service Leadville and others who have consistently expressed support and financial contributions in this 5-year progression. We also thank the many private landowners, public citizens, special interest groups and others who have politely, respectfully and sometimes enthusiastically expressed their concerns, special objectives and support.

Stage coach