THE eye-opener was the updated comprehensive master plan, which pointed the way for Alamosa to become a city of trails along the Rio Grande.
For years Alamosa had been taking steps to protect and create an open space around the city when it went to update its master plan in 2018, holding public sessions for community input. The outcome of those sessions pointed the city in a direction that even the most outdoor-conscientious communities would envy.
“When the city updated its comprehensive plan in 2018, activating the river corridor was spoken by our residents as the top priority for parks and recreation,” said Andy Rice, director of Alamosa Parks and Recreation.
The survey of residents showed that the city’s growing trail system and usage by outdoor recreationalists rated even higher than fixing streets, Rice said.
“It was shocking data from a municipal positioning standpoint,” he said.
With support from residents, Rice and the city moved to capitalize. They continued to secure funding and support through partners Great Outdoors Colorado and SLV GO, both instrumental in Alamosa’s trails and outdoor recreation efforts.
Alamosa recently added the new Toivo Malm trailhead off South River Road and boat ramps just off the State Street Bridge so people could access and float the Rio Grande. And it added more picnic shelters and signage to direct people along its growing trail system.
In 2020 Alamosa secured one of only two planning grants awarded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to help it figure out how to connect its flourishing trail system from the Riparian Park trail on the far northwest end of the city to the National Wildlife Refuge on the southeastern edge of Alamosa County.
“We view this as a legacy project for our community, connecting our treasured open spaces, Cole Park, the Riparian Park, all the way down to the National Wildlife Refuge that let’s face it a lot of our residents probably have never visited before,” Rice said.
Throughout this year Alamosa again has been asking residents for input. This time on where to build the connective tissue that allows walkers, runners and trail bike riders to access both sides of the Rio Grande banks seamlessly and without interruption.
It’s studying adding crossing bridges similar to what’s at Cole Park either first at the Riparian Park or along the Rio Grande banks behind the ballfields at Adams State, and ultimately in both spots.
“Those conversations are intensifying,” said Rice.
The city is also consulting with the International Mountain Bike Association to help it understand how to add some “lift and tilt” to stretches of the trails to add some excitement for mountain bikers, and it wants to figure out stretches of the Rio Grande trail corridor that allows birders and other niche outdoor enthusiasts to find their spots along the trail system.
Working with THK Associates, a landscape architecture consulting firm, Alamosa is moving forward with momentum to capitalize on what it started going back to 1996 when it secured purchase of the “Alamosa Ranch,” 1,300 acres of open space and wildlife habitat bordering the Rio Grande.
Its vision to connect its nearly 24 miles of trails from the Riparian Park to the National Wildlife Refuge no longer seems like a far off task.
“It’s really what gives the city of Alamosa and the residents there a quality of life,” said Chris Canaly, director of the SLV Ecosystem Council.
With the infrastructure and base trail system in place, Alamosa now will work to refine and connect as it continues to establish itself as a City of Trails.
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