Open space vision aims to connect cities with wildlife refuges, parks and open space
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A $1.7 million grant from the federal government will help move the metro Denver area closer to the final vision of the Rocky Mountain Greenway, with uninterrupted trails and open space connecting communities in the region.
“The Rocky Mountain Greenway is a shining example of what happens when strong federal, state, local and private partnerships align to take the vision of this uninterrupted trail and open space network and turn it into a reality for the Denver metropolitan area,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement. “Already we’ve constructed important links in the Greenway, and today’s funding will help complete another critical section to connect Denver’s hundreds of miles of trails.”
The Sarbanes Transit in Parks grant will provide for the initial design and construction of the western trail link, connecting Rocky Flats and Two Ponds national wildlife refuges to the Greater Denver trail system. The new trail link will be approximately 7 miles long.
Salazar and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper first proposed completing the greenway in May, 2011. Specifically, it will establish a comprehensive trail system connecting three national wildlife refuges — Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Two Ponds, and Rocky Flats — to Rocky Mountain National Park and to hundreds of miles of trails in the Denver metropolitan area.
“In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama called on us to upgrade our nation’s transportation infrastructure to help grow our economy and improve energy efficiency,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “By working with the Department of the Interior, we are improving access to modern transit services through our scenic parklands and helping preserve these national treasures for future generations.”
“The Rocky Mountain Greenway will improve access and connections to the great outdoors for all Coloradans,” said Governor Hickenlooper. “We want to thank the private, local, state and federal partners that have worked to create this critical space for wildlife and visitors. These trails and open spaces will create excellent recreation opportunities that are accessible from the Denver metro area and will help Coloradans in our goal to be the healthiest state.”
The greenway will give Denver area residents and visitors greater access to rivers, parks, open spaces and other outdoor wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities. The national wildlife refuges will anchor the trail network and offer additional birding, hiking, fishing and environmental education opportunities.
The National Park Service continues to work with local partners on a conceptual alignment for the trail from the Denver metropolitan area to the Rocky Mountain National Park and will be issuing a draft proposal for public review and comment.
In late December, partners celebrated another key conservation milestone for the Rocky Mountain Greenway with the completion of a major refuge expansion. The transaction and land exchange added approximately 1,200 acres of important wildlife habitat protection to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, increasing the refuge’s total size by nearly one-third.
The refuge’s expansion permanently conserves a wildlife corridor from the city to Colorado’s Front Range and extends the protections of the National Wildlife Refuge System to a large, contiguous and intact tract of xeric tallgrass prairie. Xeric tallgrass prairie only exists on a narrow band of the Colorado Piedmont, east of the mountain front in Colorado.
“We are exceptionally pleased with the significant progress of this collaborative effort and thanks to our Rocky Mountain Greenway partners, we are well on our way to improving connectivity from the Rocky Mountains down to the prairie landscape,” said Noreen Walsh, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. “This project shows that together we can conserve landscapes while increasing access to America’s great outdoors for all citizens.”