A drab, fenced-in lot filled with Colorado Springs Utilities machinery was the site of a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday - an event city leaders hailed as the kickoff to construction that will realize a long-anticipated outdoor recreation opportunity.
"Thank you for being here to celebrate visions beginning to become realities," Mayor John Suthers said to the crowd gathered at the lot off Interstate 25, where Fontanero Street meets the Pikes Peak Greenway Trail leading to downtown.
He called the Legacy Loop "a keystone project in our community," one that, once complete, will allow people on bicycle or foot to tour the heart of the city on a fully-connected, 10-mile path without using a road. And now, a Utilities storage place will become Legacy Plaza, a parking lot with 100 spaces that will later include restrooms - a site that project planners see as a vibrant event space in the future.
First and foremost, it is intended to be the Legacy Loop's formal trailhead.
"This signals very tangible and real progress that people have been waiting for," said Allen Beauchamp, an advocate with the Trails and Open Space Coalition who has spent almost a year in the proposed loop's surrounding neighborhoods promoting its use. "We've talked a lot about the Legacy Loop, but this'll make it real in people's minds."
Legacy Plaza's 120-day build at a cost of roughly $750,000 is one in a list of first-phase jobs the city has in mind for the Legacy Loop project. Sarah Bryarly, with Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, said $3.1 million has been set aside, with a combination of dollars from the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks tax fund, the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and the Greenway Fund. The pot includes a $1 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant that was issued last year.
The grant must be used by June 2018. Bryarly specified two other elements high on the phase-one priority list that she'd like to see completed by then.
The first is the concrete build-out of Rock Island Trail. The city this year finished a 20-year effort to acquire properties allowing for the extension of the east-west running trail on the north side. With what Bryarly said would be roughly 1.5 miles of paving, Rock Island would link with the Pikes Peak Greenway and Shooks Run Trail spanning south to downtown.
The second project Bryarly highlighted was the construction of an underpass trail south of Monument Valley Park. The path would allow Pikes Peak Greenway users to bypass the busy intersection of Uintah Street and Glen Avenue near Colorado College.
Bryarly said to help pay for those projects, nearly $2 million more next year will be appropriated.