Action Plan and
Lower Valley Trails Group
Lower Colorado River Valley
Trail and River Corridor
A partnership effort among:
LoVa Trails Group
City of Glenwood Springs, City of New Castle, City of Rifle
Town of Parachute, Town of Silt
In cooperation with:
Citizens and Land Owners of the Lower Colorado River Valley-Garfield
Colorado State Trails Program
Colorado Division of Wildlife
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Colorado Department of Transportation
Few places epitomize Colorado's diverse landscapes as well as the
Colorado River Valley as it winds through Garfield County. The river
is lifeblood to verdant cottonwood-willow forests and wetlands that
support an array of waterfowl and wildlife and a heritage of
ranching and farming. There are opportunities for hiking, bicycling,
fishing, paddling, and finding solace. The vistas are long and
majestic with snow-capped peaks, canyons and badlands. Much of the
viewscape remains pristine, largely uncluttered and unscarred.
There are still many places, especially along the river away from
the highway where one can find tranquility in the sounds of the
river and songbirds. In the face of growing development in the
valley, the people of Garfield County stand at a point of decision.
This plan suggests a direction for the future character of this
Background & Purpose of This Plan
Over the past two decades The Lower Colorado River Valley in
Garfield County has been undergoing a significant transformation.
Driven by energy-related economic growth and other factors, the
valley is seeing significant population growth.
In an effort to promote a better quality of life for its residents
and to accommodate both economic growth and the continuation of the
Valley's agricultural and ranching heritage, a group of citizens,
public agency representatives and business people formed the LoVa (LOwer
VAlley) Trails Group. The mission of LoVa is to create a trail
system along the Colorado River corridor from Glenwood Springs to
western county line near DeBeque eventually connecting with the
trail system in Mesa County.
LoVa is working to incorporate existing uses and blend the diverse
areas, hunting, vistas, and boating;
improving water quality and fishing;
improving wildlife habitat;
improving all the other constructive qualities and interests
that the river and its boundaries provide or support.
This corridor should
also provide a new transportation network for bicycle and pedestrian
commuting and new educational opportunities concerning the river,
wildlife, ranching, and existing industrial operations.
In pursuit of this vision, the LoVa Trails Group applied for and
received a planning grant from Great Outdoors Colorado with the help
of a number of individuals and agencies who stepped forward with
matching funds and volunteered services. This plan is the result of
that grant and marks a first major step in the realization of the
The purpose of this plan is to provide a vision and an action plan
for achieving a continuous multiple-benefit river corridor trail
amenity along the Colorado River through Garfield County. In
addition to defining the range of improvements, this plan provides
specific design standards and guidelines and an administrative
"roadmap" for raising funds, implementing the plan and managing the
trail and related amenities for generations to come. It is intended
to be comprehensive and long-range, helping to guide development.
The Planning Process
This effort has been approached with an outlook to:
incorporate existing uses and rights of landowners,
riparian, and native plant community impacts,
recreational uses of the river corridor resources such as
hunting, hiking, fishing, boating, contemplation, and wildlife
The planning process was
inclusive, participatory and comprehensive. Indeed, anyone with an
interest or stake in this trail and river corridor was, and
continues to be, invited to become part of the process to create and
refine this master plan.
The effort was lead by the LoVa Trails Group-an organization that
includes citizen advocates, representatives of Garfield County,
cities and towns and trail users. Public agencies participated as
well as area residents, landowners, businesspeople, farmers,
ranchers, miners, hunters, school officials, and the energy
industry. The process included five open planning workshops (with
landowners and citizens), consultations with numerous interested
individuals and groups, and participatory review of all draft
materials. A strong emphasis was placed on making this plan a
representative document that embraced and responded to the
aspirations, goals and concerns of all parties with a stake in, or
potentially affected by the project.
LoVa does not support condemnation of land to create this trail and
stewardship corridor, nor does it have the authority to take such
action. LoVa expects to create the trail system and conserve areas
along the river corridor that private landowners wish to set aside
Types of Trail
and Recreational Users
An overarching goal of the plan is to accommodate a broad range
of uses by a full range of visitors with all levels of
capability. The planning process also addresses long and short
distance uses from a brief 20-minute workout to a multi-day
cross-country tour. For purposes of this plan, a number of types
of trail uses were defined. These include:
and Hiking-can be accommodated by either paved or stable
crushed rock or earth pathways of varying width. Ideally,
separating or dispersing uses can avoid conflicts with bicycles
Bicycling-this includes slower moving recreational
bicyclists including families, novice cyclists, children,
elderly and others who prefer a bicycling experience away from
automobile traffic in a scenic corridor. Generally, a paved
(minimum 10'-wide) or crushed stone surface is preferred.
prefer a soft but stable natural surface. Equestrian rides may
be an hour or two or an overnight long distance ride. Access
points that can facilitate horse trailer parking and unloading
and rest/camping areas with hitching racks and drinking water
sources for horses better serve equestrians. Planning should
avoid conflict between horses and other trail uses.
(Mountain) Bicycling-includes cross-track and all-terrain
bikes. The range of uses includes riding on multi-use trails,
riding on crushed stone or unpaved trails, and "challenge"
riding that includes rough terrain, grades and obstacles.
higher speed bicyclists skilled in riding with automobile
traffic. This use suggests adequate lane width, paved shoulders,
or marked bike lanes.
Fitness-includes people training for competition or personal
fitness. These users prefer higher speed (that may not be
appropriate on a multi-use trail) and the ability to maintain
their pace without stops or disruptions. Distance and grade
markers may be helpful.
use of the trail system for non-motorized transportation
including travel to and from work, schools, between
neighborhoods and other destinations. Commuting usually calls
for a paved multi-use trail or road system with adequate width
and low traffic volumes to accommodate bicycles.
long distance rides of a half-day or more. Preferred facilities
include a continuous, scenic, paved multi-use trail or roadways
suitable for bicycling.
a paved multi-use trail surface of adequate width (min.
10'-wide) to accommodate skating.
Boating (Kayaking, Canoeing, Rafting)-requires adequate
flows in river to float boats, access points to park and unload
boats, landings and rest spots along the river, portages around
rapids, passageways through dams, marking of hazards and degree
of difficulty rating information. Boating uses also include
whitewater paddling and slalom competition.
water quality, fish stocking, access points, angler trails along
river bank where appropriate, access for people with
disabilities, access to launch boats for float fishing.
Outdoor Education and Interpretation-improvements include
viewing blinds, interpretive trails, wayside exhibits and sites
for stewardship projects and monitoring.
the resource values of land, water, and recreational amenities.
Developed / Improved
Land-Land that has had some type of deliberate human change from
its natural state, for instance pastureland, housing
development, extensive grading, etc.
channel and the relatively flat area adjoining the channel of a
natural stream or river that has been or may be covered by
parcel or area of land or water essentially unimproved and set
aside, dedicated, or otherwise reserved for public or private
rehabilitate, and/or restore areas, sites, structures and
is traversed or bounded by a natural watercourse to which it is
care for and management of resources with the goal of
maintaining and improving its health.
Land-Land that is basically in the same natural condition as it
would have been before agriculture and industry began to impact
the valley. This could be disturbed land that has been restored
to natural condition. This land may have existing pathways,
access roads, ditches, etc. that do not deter or limit the
movement of wildlife.
The following principles set the framework for the planning,
development and long-term stewardship of the Lower Colorado River
Valley Trail and River Corridor. These principles should be adhered
to in planning and development of the trail and river corridor.
Trails and Recreational
1. There should be a continuous non-motorized multi-use trail
(accommodating, where feasible, equestrians, wheeled uses, and
pedestrians) along the length of the Colorado River Valley from
Glenwood Springs to the Garfield County line west of Parachute. This
would connect to the trails heading east and south out of Glenwood
Springs and eventually connect to the trails work ongoing in Mesa
2. The trail system should serve as a main spine trail along the
length of the river valley. This spine trail should connect local
trail loops, tributary trails and safe on-street routes that lead to
communities and other destinations along the length of the valley.
3. Trails and trail facilities should be designed to minimize
adverse impacts on homes, places of business, agriculture/ranching,
mineral extraction and the natural environment.
4. All trail and trail improvements shall balance reasonable
financial constraints with design excellence. Trails should be safe
and affordable to build and maintain.
5. All trail improvements should be designed for minimal visual
intrusion and impact on the surrounding environment.
6. The trail system should be properly designed and adequate to
avoid/minimize user conflict and overcrowding.
7. There should be a variety of trail outing lengths that provide a
range of opportunities, from a 20-minute workout to a daily commuter
route, to a multi-day journey.
8. Where feasible, trails should run through pleasant and serene
settings, offering a variety of experiences and connecting to places
9. In developed areas, trails should exploit educational
opportunities, i.e., interpretive signage concerning gravel pit
mining, natural gas extraction, landfills, wastewater treatment
10. Wherever feasible, the trail alignment should provide
connections to "way-stations" (places to stop to buy food and water
or spend the night) with drinking water, toilets and shelter from
11. There should be an integrated and adequate information system
including safety and degree of difficulty/accessibility signage,
user way-finding, directional and milepost signage and
12. The trail system would incorporate river access at numerous
points along the river for use by anglers and paddle craft (canoes,
rafts and dories).
13. Where feasible, at-grade road crossings shall be avoided.
Grade-separated crossings such as underpasses and overpasses shall
14. Where feasible, trails should serve multiple objectives such as
recreation, transportation, drainage way maintenance, emergency
15. Youth volunteers and local communities should be involved in the
management and maintenance activities (where feasible) of the trail
and river corridor, to foster their stewardship of the trail and the
invaluable river corridor.
Interface with Developed/Improved Lands Adjacent to the Trail
1. Promote the conservation of sustainable agricultural and ranching
activities along the river valley.
2. Integrate current and future industrial needs of our valley that
are to be located within the river corridor, including mineral
extraction and utility corridors.
3. Capitalize on opportunities to educate about the resources, needs
and realities of existing uses within the river corridor. For
instance, a trail has been created within one of the landfills in
Mesa County for educational and awareness purposes. They have over
30,000 visitors each year.
4. Buffer adjacent developed lands from resource conservation lands,
and scenic areas from adjacent developed lands in order to minimize
or mitigate potential adverse impacts. Open space should not create
nuisances or adversely impact adjacent land uses (subdivisions,
agriculture, mineral extraction, utility corridors, critical
wildlife habitat and recreational activities).
Resource Stewardship of Undisturbed Land
1. Conserve the scenic, ecological, paleontological, and cultural
integrity of the Colorado River Valley. Resource conservation lands
should be naturalistic, undeveloped and managed for optimal wildlife
and scenic values. Open space could be privately or publicly owned.
2. Adequately buffer resource conservation lands and scenic areas
from potential adverse impacts by adjacent land uses including
development, agriculture, mineral extraction, utility corridors and
3. Wherever possible, limit disturbance of the natural drainage of
the Colorado River and its tributaries and minimize impact on the
river's natural floodplains.
4. Wherever possible, establish and preserve continuous,
interconnected open space corridors along the river of adequate
width to accommodate natural plant communities, movement of
wildlife, water quality, and scenic qualities.
5. Wherever possible, preserve mountain, mesa, and rangeland vistas
when viewed from the river valley, adjacent roadways (including
I-70) and other important prospect points.
6. Wherever practical and appropriate, facilitate public access to
resource conservation lands.
7. Promote interpretive and educational opportunities and the
involvement of youth and volunteers in stewardship activities.
8. Conservation lands should be safe and affordable to set aside and
Part of a Potential Trans-Colorado Trail
Ultimately, The LoVa Trail may form a key link in a potential
Trans-Colorado Trail-a 400-mile scenic bicycle and pedestrian
corridor extending from the Utah border to the Kansas border.
Already, significant segments of this trail system are in place
including: the Glenwood Canyon Trail (Glenwood Springs to Dotsero),
the Eagle County Core Trail (Avon to Vail), The Vail Pass Trail
(Vail to Silverthorne), as well as segments along Clear Creek
between Silver Plume and Idaho Springs and in Mesa County between
Fruita and Grand Junction. The Trans-Colorado Trail could become an
outstanding local recreational resource and international tourist
attraction displaying the full range of Colorado's diverse
landscapes and communities.