Pikes Peak Greenway
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File photo (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

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If the Pikes Peak Greenway is the Interstate 25 of our trail system, the Cottonwood Creek Trail with its new crossing under Academy Boulevard is starting to resemble U.S. 24.

It will be one of the first east-west trails that connects to our greater system. Within days, you’ll be able to bike, walk or jog from the Greenway to Powers Boulevard on a trail. Best of all, a lovely 1-mile stretch along Cottonwood Creek, east of Vincent, finally will reopen.

City parks staff worked with other departments and agencies to creatively fund the complete connection. Remember when voters decided a small piece of the PPRTA tax could be used for city trail projects? Those dollars from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority have enabled a number of important trail connections, such as the new Pikes Peak Greenway crossing beneath Uintah Street.

An increasing number of cyclists use these trails for transportation, so it is appropriate that a small percentage of PPRTA dollars supports trails projects. Each time a connection is made and a trail made easier and safer, numbers on the trail increase.

We still have significant gaps to address. The Legacy Loop has a major interruption where South Shooks Run ends and a railroad impedes progress. City staffers continue to seek a compromise. When that trail is completed, an amazing 10-mile loop will encircle our downtown and connect users to much of our trail system.

How nice to have that finished by 2021, our sesquicentennial. Gen. William Jackson Palmer, city founder, was a railroad man. I bet he’d approve of making the connection.

Improvements to the Sand Creek Trail continue to increase connectivity in the city’s southeast quadrant. Once the short gap east of the Hancock Expressway is converted to trail, we’ll need to get users safely across Hancock. At that point, the trail connects with the Pikes Peak Greenway, and suddenly residents will have safe access to our full trail system.

Exciting developments are underway on the west end of the Midland Trail, as part of the Westside Area Action Plan. Once the trail’s completed, you’ll be able to safely cycle or jog from America the Beautiful Park to the city’s western boundary, eventually connecting into Manitou Springs. That project is slated for significant completion, including on-street bike lanes, by June.

Spring is a time for fresh starts. Put the Cottonwood Trail on your list of “things to do.”

Davies is executive director of Trails and Open Space Coalition.

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