Eight golden shovels scraped into rocky Clear Creek County soil April 23 to signify the start of the long-gestating Peaks to Plains Trail project.
Officials from Clear Creek and Jefferson counties, as well as state representatives, met for the groundbreaking ceremony on the side of U.S. 6 at Tunnel 5 on Clear Creek's Oxbow parcel.
The $13.9 million project will link Clear Creek and Jefferson counties with a 10-foot-wide concrete trail for 6 miles, improve stream access and link the Oxbow parcel with Mayhem Gulch in Jeffco. The trail will run approximately 4 miles in Jefferson County and about 2 miles in Clear Creek.
The segment will eventually tie into the larger Peaks to Plains Trail that will ultimately stretch 65 miles from Loveland Pass to Adams County.
The project is being funded by a Great Outdoors Colorado grant of $4.6 million, plus $4.5 million from Jefferson County, $1.1 million from Clear Creek County, $105,000 from the Gates Family Foundation, and funds from other user groups such as recreation districts.
"This is an important day because of a dream. … Decades ago, somebody got interested in providing a non-motorized path through Clear Creek County so that we could enjoy our county, enjoy the river and enjoy the environment," said Clear Creek Commissioner Tom Hayden. "It's taken 30 years, but here we are where we've got a greenway plan in Clear Creek County that starts right behind me down here at the Jefferson County line."
Construction will be completed by June 2015.
Hayden said eventually the Peaks to Plains trail will allow people to "ride, walk or crawl" from Golden to the Loveland Ski Area.
"This particular portion … we call it the gateway to Clear Creek County," Hayden said. "(It) is probably going to be the highlight of your trip in the future from Golden to Loveland. It is one of the few spots you get away from the traffic, get away from the noise."
Hayden said the project is also important because it allows the two counties to work together.
"I think that counties are sometimes isolated, and they don't tend to play well all the time with their neighbors, but that's not the case with Jefferson County," Hayden said. "We've got a very good relationship. … If it wasn't for their willingness, and I think the opportunity, this project wouldn't have happened."
Jefferson County Commissioner Donald Rosier said he was proud of the collaboration between the two governments.
He added that when the idea was presented to him, he questioned whether it was even possible to build a continuous trail from Jefferson County through Clear Creek, given the mountainous and rocky terrain.
"It just goes to show you hard work, determination, dedication — and a lot of money — can get you to where we are today," Rosier said.
Clear Creek Commissioner Tim Mauck added that as Clear Creek emerges from its mining past, the trail would help spawn new types of economic development, attract families and give older populations a recreational resource.
"I just want to thank everyone here for working on it, and the hard work and sweat that have gone into it. This is a fantastic day, so thank you," Mauck said.
Contact Ian Neligh at firstname.lastname@example.org.