By a 3-2 vote, Delta City Council voted to pursue a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation to complete the first portion of a trail extension from Confluence Park.
In a special meeting July 26, councilmembers agreed to set aside matching funds of $100,000, which is about 20 percent of the total cost of developing the trail under the Highway 50 bridge in North Delta.
Christopher Ryan, Ron Austin and Ed Sisson voted in favor of the expenditure; Gerald Roberts and Bill Raley were opposed.
Wilma Erven, director of parks, said the trail would begin behind Big O Tires, go under both bridges and loop back up to the sidewalk on the east side of Highway 50. The distance is 600 feet to the far side of the bridges, then 840 feet back to the sidewalk. Total cost is estimated at $500,000, which includes final engineering and contingency fees.
The trail was identified as a high priority in a study of the Gunnison River corridor recently completed by RiverRestoration. A strategic plan developed by Better City consultants point to the city's inactive riverfront as a significant opportunity to develop recreational assets that will reposition the community as a destination attraction and community of choice for employers and their associated workforce.
The trail project will not begin until after July 2017, so the city's contribution can be budgeted in 2017 ($20,000 for design) and 2018 ($80,000 for construction).
That news did not reassure councilman Bill Raley, who expressed concern about committing funds that could potentially be used for street repairs and other infrastructure needs. Between the alternate truck route and golf course debt, the city has little in the way of discretionary funds, Raley pointed out.
City manager David Torgler said ideally the city's contribution will be repaid from a revitalized Delta Urban Renewal Authority, or DURA. DURA is expected to play a major role in developing the gateway project outlined in Better City's strategic plan for economic revitalization of Delta (see related story).
Torgler said the City of Delta has done a great deal of work with Better City, Delta County, Region 10 and Delta County Economic Development to develop that strategic plan. "Now the rubber hits the road," he said.
Raley said it's nice to talk about the gateway project, which is to include a major hotel, but it's time to get realistic. Will Delta ever be considered a destination city?
"No, it's not a destination," Mayor Ed Sisson responded. "We're trying to change that."
Councilmember Ron Austin said it's time for the City of Delta to step up and present to the citizens of Delta a viable proposal that in the longterm will create jobs and additional tax revenue.
Austin, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative, said it would be a crying shame to back away from efforts to revitalize the economy. "I truly believe what we're doing will be an asset to this community," he said.
Raley said he felt city council was being rushed into a decision because of a July 29 grant application deadline. The grant being pursued by the city is funded just every three years.
Mary Cooper, a former councilmember, questioned whether the $500,000 project would become "a trail to nowhere" due to lack of right-of-way on the east side of the bridge. She was assured major property owners on the south side of the river have been consulted and are open to discussion about the sale of their property.
Torgler said full activation of the 2.2-mile-long river corridor is estimated at $14 million, so it can't all be done at once. "This is step one," he said. "River activation will have to take place over time."
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Delta County Board of Commissioners called a special meeting to consider the board's response to the Bureau of Land Management's preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) concerning the lease parcels proposed for the December BLM sale.
Several people from the North Fork were present to provide input.