Durango, CO: Almost 7 miles of new mountain biking trails are nearing completion in Horse Gulch that will ultimately connect to what one fitness website is calling the “Largest Municipal Bike Park in the USA.”
The new trails are a demonstration project in Horse Gulch scheduled to open in the fall as part of a joint effort between the City of Durango and the Durango Mesa Park foundation. Planning started after gathering community input during 2020-2022. Work began in April to build the new trails, including 3 multi-use connector trails from Horse Gulch to Durango Mesa Park, a new connection trail from Telegraph trail, and 3 directional downhill trails that include 2 flow trails (one will be adaptive cycle accessible), and an intermediate downhill trail.
Durango Mesa Park, just south of Horse Gulch on the nearby mesa, is a nearly 2,000-acre project that will include a world-class 80+ acre mountain biking facility with a base area for all ages, but also serve as a potential home for the county fairgrounds, a concert venue, disc-golf course, along with other recreation uses and will conserve hundreds of acres of open space.
According to Strava, a fitness website, once complete, the mountain biking facility at Durango Mesa Park will be the “largest municipal bike park in the United States.” In addition to the bike park, Durango Mesa Park will also include an additional 300-plus acres of trails connecting to nearby trails. For comparison, the Coler Mountain Bike Preserve in Bentonville, Arkansas, is one of the most well-known bike parks in the United States and is 300 acres but privately owned. Boulder’s Valmont Bike Park is owned by the city of Boulder and covers 42 acres.
The new trails nearing completion at Horse Gulch mostly lie on 245 acres sold by Durango Mesa Park Foundation to the city in June 2021 for $1.5 million, and signaled the start of the implementation of the Durango Mesa Area Master Plan. The overall mesa property was originally owned by the Katz family, who donated it to the foundation, which still owns the rest of the private property that was not sold to the city. The foundation is working with the city on phased future improvements and conveyance in a private/public partnership. Development of the property had been previously envisioned in the city’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan. Prior owners have proposed up to 2,000 residential units and a golf course.
City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 1, agreed to begin the process of annexing Durango Mesa Park, formerly known as Ewing Mesa, into city limits. A public hearing on the proposed annexation is scheduled for Sept. 5. The annexation would add 1,928 acres to the city’s footprint. The demonstration trail project was the first step for improvements on the mesa because it relieves traffic on Horse Gulch Road and it is not attached to any infrastructure improvements. In 2022 and 2023, the city appropriated $2.2 million for the project which will need to be re-appropriated to 2024. City staff seeks an additional appropriation of $2 million for construction of the bike park in 2024.
Moira Compton, executive director of Durango Mesa Park Foundation, said city staff and council deserve much credit for getting to this point, and it’s great to see the foundation’s plans reach fruition. “This is first and foremost community space where people of all ages will be able to congregate, enjoy the space and the incredible views,” she said.
Gaige Sippy, the venue manager for the foundation, said it is key for the public to understand the demonstration trail project, and the future bike park, are just a small part of the foundation’s effort. “The acreage set aside for the bike park will be the largest municipal-owned in the United States, but the bike park is just one piece of the overall plan. We are going to have a broad base of activities," he said.
Although the demonstration project’s trails are nearing completion, the city and the foundation ask the public to continue to respect the construction zone and please stay off the new trails until they are open for use. “We need some moisture so the new trails can set,” said Sippy. “We want to open it as much as everyone else, but we need to keep people off.” Compton said the new trails may not be open until fall, depending on when the monsoons arrive.
Scott McClain, interim director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said it is very exciting to see the demonstration trails built after talking and planning about the project with the foundation for years. “The Durango Mesa Park Foundation and all the contractors involved have done an incredible job in developing this system of trails in a short time frame this summer,” he said. “The city partnership with the Durango Mesa Foundation has been great and momentum is in place for the development of the bike park and next steps towards this visionary community project.”
To watch videos of the trail construction by Progressive Trail Design, check out these videos on Youtube: Durango Mesa Bike Park - YouTube, Durango Mesa Bike Park #2 - YouTube.
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