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Feasibility Study Completed For Potential Major Rail Trail

The 178-mile Union Pacific railroad corridor over Tennessee Pass has been proposed for a trail.

By Tom Easley

Map of Colorado

A study of the potential for trails and recreation in the 178-mile railroad corridor from Cañon City to Gypsum has been completed by Colorado State Parks. Several months of work and research went into the project, which was directed by a Steering Committee that included planners and managers of the four counties along the railroad plus representatives of various landowner, recreation, business interests, and federal land management agencies.

After examining several alternatives, the Steering Committee recommends that, if the tracks are ultimately removed, the corridor should be converted to trail use.

Initial estimates indicate that by investing between $6.4 and $10.4 million, the corridor could be transformed into one of the nation's most spectacular long-distance trails, offsetting the loss of rail service by annually generating up to $6.6 million for the regional economy. Annual operating costs are estimated to be in the $440,000-$567,000 range.

The Steering Committee identified nine future actions to carry forward the trail alternative:

1. Prepare a detailed Corridor Development and Management Plan before opening the corridor to trail use.

2. Adopt strategies to ensure trail use will be compatible with adjacent land uses.

3. Pursue opportunities to link the trail corridor with other regional outdoor resources.

4. Develop strategies to protect and conserve the corridor's valuable biological resources.

5. Pursue preservation and interpretation of the historic and cultural resources of the corridor.

6. Secure the resources to fund the capital and operations costs of the corridor.

7. Ensure that hazardous materials are cleaned up to a standard that will accommodate public uses of the corridor.

8. Pursue legislative actions that will strengthen liability protection for adjacent landowners.

9. Pursue land exchange transactions with the railroads that would yield mutual benefits.

10. Develop a volunteer network to assist in construction and operation of the trail.

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