Alpine Bike Parks airs new bike park alternative for Cundiff Park by Animas River

A design for a new bike park at the City of Durango’s Cundiff Park by the Animas River is turning some heads among the local mountain bike community for it’s appeal with riders who want a bike park with a social atmosphere and quick turnaround times back to the beginning of each trail.

Outlined in red is the perimeter of the City's Cundiff Park by the Animas River. Conceptualized by Alpine Bike Parks is a slopestyle course/dirt jump area in the yellow circle, and a skills area in the orange circle.

Outlined in red is the perimeter of the City’s Cundiff Park by the Animas River. Conceptualized by Alpine Bike Parks is a series of jump lines with slopestyle features that would be built near/inside the yellow circle, and a skills area in the orange circle. A proposed progressive trail would follow the westerly, upper perimeter of the park. Satellite imagery by Google Earth. Illustration by Adam Howell.

Alpine Bike Parks, a full-service design/build contractor out of British Columbia, had an employee of theirs in town last week who led a presentation/discussion about the feasibility of putting in a bike park at Cundiff Park or Chapman Hill with a group of city officials and about 30 residents.

Alpine Bike Parks presented preliminary findings from its analysis of the feasibility study for putting in a bike park at Chapman Hill or Cundiff Park to a group of residents and public officials. at the Durango Community Recreation Center.

Alpine Bike Parks presented preliminary findings from its analysis of the feasibility study for putting in a bike park at Chapman Hill or Cundiff Park to a group of residents and public officials at the Durango Community Recreation Center. Photo by Kevin Hall.

Alpine Bike Parks was hired following City approval last fall to assess the feasibility of building a bike park at Chapman Hill.

Daniel Scott, the Project Manager and Designer for Alpine Bike Parks came to Durango last week for three days to check out Chapman Hill, but was enticed to Cundiff Park by City officials because of the fact that the bmx track there was recently acquired by the City.

“We hadn’t thought a lot about Cundiff until we had some conversations with the bmx group as they were transitioning over to the City,” said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz. “We now are running the bmx track. Previously it was a non profit group that did that.”

“As we were transitioning last year, they suggested that we might look at some opportunities at Cundiff,” said Metz.

“We have Cundiff Park in our capital improvement program to approve, but the cost is, as Scott remembers, and everyone remembers, maybe $3 million dollars, depending on the alternatives and the amenities in that,” said Metz. “Quite honestly, we just don’t have the money right now to build that. But if the half cent is reauthorized by the community, that would give us a lot of opportunity to move forward with a project like that.”

Scott presented some preliminary findings to the public at a meeting last Wednesday after seeing the properties in person with City officials.

“From there [Chapman Hill], we went to Cundiff. Cundiff was a bit of a surprise,” said Scott. “Cathy told me it was flat, which is not true as we discovered. It has lots of slope, but it has a much nicer slope [mellower].”

Possible trail lines for either bike park site had not been flagged yet, said Scott.

At the public meeting, Scott used a SWOT analysis to encourage people to discuss the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats towards the creation and sustainability of a potential bike park at either Chapman Hill and/or Cundiff Park.

SWOT for Chapman Hill Bike Park

  • Strengths–Possible location for Durango’s first uplift-served (Magic Carpet lift) mountain bike park for gravity-fed downhill trails. Bathroom facilities are already onsite. It’s a more centrally-located park for those living in town.
  • Weaknesses–Project site situated on a north-facing slope at an angle that makes it prone to getting damaged from monsoonal rains. The hill’s hydrology would be effected. Soil would need to be outsourced from a different area due to the rocky nature of the existing soil. Retaining walls, swails, ditches, culverts and a 20-foot wide swath would need to be cut for each flow trail into the hillside, resulting in a visual impact for people that might be sensitive.
  • Opportunities–Opportunity to use a Magic Carpet upflift for getting people to the top of the hill faster after each run. Opportunities for great rock work for features.
  • Threats–A competing desire to put in a second rink where the gun club currently exists could compromise the availability of that piece of land to be used for bike park purposes. Political opposition from mountain bike haters or those sensitive to the visual impacts of a 20-foot swath that gets cut for the flow trail corridors.

SWOT for Cundiff Bike Park

  • Strengths–Trails could be ridden over and over again will little interruption for rider who are commuting back to the beginning of each trail. Trail construction would be easier, given the mellower grade and easier access for machinery and people. Trails would be less prone to hydrological erosion. Less land would need to be cleared to build trails there. The riding season would be longer due to greater solar exposure. The park is right next to a hospital. It’s easier to get dirt to Cundiff Park than it would be at Chapman Hill.
  • Weaknesses–A bike park at Cundiff would not serve the gravity-oriented downhill mountain bike riders who currently have a shortage of trails for their riding style. It’s not as centrally located as Chapman Hill. No bathroom or facilities currently exist there. The park is situated in a flood plain.
  • Opportunities–It’s mellow grade makes for some ideal dirt jump slopestyle lines at a grade of 4 to 6%, according to Scott. A perimeter single track progressive trail. Good opportunity for a pump track, cyclocross course, and skills area. Great spectator opportunities. Opportunities for great rock work. Platforms or start hills would start the drop lines for anywhere from beginner to expert jump lines with slopestyle features anywhere from natural jumps to wooden lip jumps, berms log rides, and wall rides.
  • Threats–It would cost more than a bike park at Chapman Hill. Political opposition from people with homes in the Rivergate Center across the river from the park.

Why I still favor Farmington Hill over realigning US Highway 550 at the Bridge to Nowhere

What would Florida Mesa look like if the Colorado Department of Transportation excavates 1.82 million cubic yards of material from the northern end of it in order to realign US Highway 550 to the Bridge to Nowhere at the Grandview Interchange?

Bridge to NowhereI would prefer not to see the geographical impact of this alternative called RGM6.

I would prefer not to see those one hundred thousand dump truck loads (18 cubic yards per load) of material get removed from Florida Mesa.

The visual impact of what CDOT is hoping to accomplish will be staggering.

Over time, though, the terraced retaining walls, landscaping and associated vegetation would help their human-made canyon blend in to the surrounding terrain. In the end, I won’t forget what the landscape used to look like.

At a cost of $78 million, CDOT’s “Preferred Alternative” realignment of this 1 ½-mile stretch of road seems to be disproportionately high compared to the cost of building that much road somewhere else. But I am certainly no road engineer.

It’s been fifteen years since CDOT initially decided that they were going to realign U.S. Highway 550 to cross Chris Webb’s property and connect it with the so-called Bridge to Nowhere at the Grandview Interchange.

Since the Interchange was first built, CDOT has modified their “Preferred Alternative” from going straight across the Webb ranch, to their current proposal (RGM6), which contours along the western to northern edge of Florida Mesa.

This most recent “Preferred Alternative” of the CDOT has impacts on wildlife that are using the interface between the pinon juniper forest and the grasslands of the ranch as edge habitat.

This is where US 550 connects with US 160 at Farmington Hill.

This is where US 550 connects with US 160 at Farmington Hill.

Either way, I still have a different preference.

I have trouble believing that the existing alignment on Farmington Hill cannot be straightened out a little bit with the grade reduced, visibility around corners increased, shoulders constructed, rumble strips and guardrails installed where needed and an overpass built at the bottom for less money than what CDOT is proposing to spend on their Preferred Alternative RGM6.

Aside from the cost, I truly believe that the existing alignment of Farmington Hill can be modified in such a way as to help reduce rollover accidents, collisions with wildlife and rear-end accidents.

At the bottom of Farmington Hill where US Highway 160 crosses Wilson Creek, I would support the idea of modifying the ends of the box culvert to be more wildlife friendly so that fawns and calfs can more easily get from one side to the other without having to jump down some big waterfall stairs as it’s currently arranged.

If that means supporting a version of what the Webb representatives are calling the R5 Alternative, then that’s what I believe CDOT should implement.

CDOT’s most recent design proposal for connecting US 550 at the Bridge to Nowhere

The Colorado Department of Transportation has a new design proposal for connecting US Highway 550 to the Bridge to Nowhere on US Highway 160, also known as the Grandview Interchange.

In the new design, referred to by CDOT as RGM6 , the Preferred Alternative, the road would run along the edge of Florida Mesa before popping out at the Bridge to Nowhere (my words), instead of cutting straight across the Webb Ranch. The old Farmington Hill approach would be reclaimed and the existing intersection at the bottom of the hill would be converted to a wildlife crossing.

CDOT’s Region 5 Communications Manager Nancy Shanks said that in order to make the grade of US 160 level with that of the existing bridge at the interchange, about 1.82 million cubic yards of material would need to be excavated for RGM6, the Preferred Alternative. With this preliminary calculation of mineral soil/fill that would need to be relocated, CDOT is uncertain as to where this material would be relocated.

Where the material is relocated will depend on what other projects are ongoing at the time of the bid, said Shanks. Unless CDOT stipulates something specific at the time of bid, Shanks says that the contractor will likely sell the material to try to offset some costs.

In the process of moving the 1.82 million cubic yards of material to meet the grade of the bridge at the interchange, a maximum earthwork cut of 55 feet would need to be taken from Florida Mesa, according to Shanks. Most of the cuts along RGM6 are less than 15 feet, she said.

Dan Gregory, an attorney for the Webb Ranch, said that the maximum cut for the previous Preferred Alternative alignment coming out at the Bridge to Nowhere, RGM, was going to be 120 feet deep and 880 feet wide. The discrepancy in the depth of the road cuts predicted by CDOT versus that of Gregory is one this blogger cannot explain without a surveyor to consult.

Gregory  spoke in favor of using the existing alignment during CDOT’s public meeting on November 2, 2011.

CDOT is planning to make a final decision on where to align US Highway 550 with US Highway 160 this winter, said Shanks. Please submit any additional comments/questions no later than Feb 18 (title your email “US 160/550 Connection” and send to nancy.shanks@state.co.us).

Exhibit 6-31 RGM6 Illustration 1

Image courtesy of CDOT.

RGM6 with RGM copy

Image courtesy of CDOT.

FINAL RGM6 Newsletter 112114-1

The visual impacts that connecting US Highway 550 to the Bridge to Nowhere would have are staggering yet completely absent from any wording in the Colorado Department of Transportation's first so-called Environmental Impact Statement.

Looking at Florida Mesa and the Grandview Interchange, where CDOT estimates that 1.82 million cubic yards of material would need to be removed in order to connect US 550 at the grade of the Bridge to Nowhere.