Planners and local officials voiced cautious optimism after two days of meetings last week regarding the proposed Paths to Mesa Verde trail , but acknowledged that it poses numerous challenges.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has put the 20-mile pedestrian and bike route from Cortez to Mancos on a list of 16 high-priority trails around the state. A Denver-based firm has been hired to do a feasibility study with monies from a federal transportation grant. During meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Cortez, attendees discussed possible routes. The goal is to stay within two miles of Highway 160 but ideally at least a quarter-mile away, both for safety reasons and to ensure a quality experience. They agreed it would be simplest to avoid crossing private land, but there are places where that is not possible. However, some landowners may not want the trail and others may have conservation easements that preclude it. Other concerns include areas of steep and rugged terrain, a toxic site on private land west of Mancos, and how and where to cross the highway. Colorado Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne, who took part in the meetings, said while state funding is limited, Hickenlooper believes trail projects are important both for tourism and health concerns such as the growing obesity problem among youths.