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City of Cortez plans to expand bike trails

Parks and Recreation seeks landowner cooperation

The Cortez Parks and Recreation Department is planning to expand the city’s bicycle and walking trails in the near future.

At a meeting on Friday, the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Advisory Board discussed plans to install several miles of new or repurposed trails within the city limits, including a possible trail from the Cortez Recreation Center to Conquistador Golf Course. Most of the new trails will require cooperation from property owners, although some could be added to existing trails or sidewalks. The board agreed to start holding meetings with city staff and landowners this summer to find out how much of the planned trail network they could feasibly complete.

Right now the city has bike lanes on most of the major streets downtown, including Montezuma Avenue, Empire Street and Seventh Street. But the lanes on the north side of town don’t connect to the south side, and there are no city-maintained bike trails outside downtown and the park system. Parks and Recreation Director Dean Palmquist said he would like to make the city’s network of trails more complete.

“Wherever we can do connectors, and make that happen, we should make every effort to do that,” he said.

He presented the board with a map showing where the city wants to create new bike lanes and trails. For example, a potential bike lane would be added to Third Street to connect with the Seventh Street bike lanes. The Mesa Trail, which leads out of Hawkins Preserve and currently dead-ends at Oak Street, would also be extended to connect with Seventh Street.

One of the most ambitious elements of the trail map is a walking and biking trail from the Recreation Center to the Kiwanis Pocket Park across from Conquistador Golf Course. Although Palmquist said the proposed route is already frequently used by bikers, much of it goes through private property, so paving and maintaining a city trail would require the government to negotiate easements with landowners.

Board member Tom Rennick pointed out the idea had been proposed and “shot down” by landowners several years ago, but Palmquist said he had heard from at least one person along the route who was interested in creating an easement on their property.

Other proposed trails on the map include a route around the location of the old Montezuma-Cortez High School, where the city plans to build a park, and extensions to the trails leading out of Carpenter Natural Area and Denny Lake Park.

Most members of the board expressed approval of the new trail plans, but Tim Kline pointed out that, since most of them would require the city to acquire land from private property owners, they’re likely still a long way from becoming a reality.

“I think it’s good for the community,” he said. “The thing is, there’s two things that it does: It takes time, and it costs money.”

Palmquist asked all the board members to examine the map, research the potential trails, and bring their ideas to the next regular board meeting in May. The board’s April meeting will be dedicated to planning the city’s Arbor Day celebration.

Also during Friday’s meeting, the board voted to appoint Kenneth Quigley, a retiree who moved to Cortez from Texas in 2016, as the newest board member. If he is approved by the city council on Tuesday, he will fill the last vacant adult position on the advisory board.

The board also heard a presentation from the Cortez BMX group, asking the town to approve signage and a new name for their Cortez track. Board members agreed to discuss the proposal further during their May meeting.

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