Local officials say that assistance from the National Park Service (NPS) will help bring a multi-use, pedestrian and bicycle pathway along Spanish Valley Drive closer to reality. On Oct 4, the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program — an arm of the NPS — awarded Grand County planning assistance to design and develop an active transportation corridor along Spanish Valley Drive.
“I can’t even express enough thanks to those who applied for [the assistance],” said Grand County Council Member Mary McGann. “The more alternative ways we can move around this county the better off we are.”
Although “nothing is set in stone” at this point, Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine said that the multi-use pathway could run either 5.5 miles or 7.5 miles in length along Spanish Valley Drive.
“That represents the segment of Spanish Valley Drive from its intersection with Mill Creek Drive to the county boundary, or all the way out to the turn-off at Ken’s Lake,” Levine said.
Grand County has already committed $100,000 to the project, which Levine said is largely earmarked for future engineering costs or potential match monies for the actual construction of the pathway. RTCA’s assistance, Levine said, is primarily focused on the planning and design phase, which includes stakeholder engagement.
According to Betsy Byrne, RTCA’s project leader for the multi-use pathway, pulling together key partners will help clearly identify any “issues, constraints, and opportunities” associated with the corridor.
“We want to talk to the community at large and talk to neighbors on that corridor about what it could look like and what the potentials are,” Byrne said. “That’s a key piece of what RTCA does. Our projects are community driven and community led. We shoot for public engagement.”
Levine said the county first “need[s] to get a better handle” on property ownership along Spanish Valley Drive. This includes Grand County’s rights-of way widths, which could inform the design of the corridor, he said.
“Ideally, we’d have a separated bike and pedestrian pathway for the length of the corridor,” Levine said. “Based on variable topographies and rights-of-way widths, however, the pathway may take multiple forms throughout the corridor: separated path, protected lane by barrier, and simply painted in other areas. Again, ideally it will be a separated pathway throughout its length as that is the safest option for bicycling and walking.”
Levine said that there are also plans to incorporate an equestrian trail — potentially on the opposite side of the bicycle and pedestrian path — in the “more southern reaches” of Spanish Valley Drive.
“I’ve heard from a number of equestrian users that they would benefit tremendously from having a route between [Old Spanish Trail Arena] and trails around Ken’s Lake,” Levine said.
Byrne said the Spanish Valley Drive multi-use pathway project fits well within the priorities of RTCA. Not only does the project focus on outdoor recreation, she said, but also encourages healthy activity and provides a safer active transportation route for Moab residents.
“We have a number of strategic priorities or things we look for in projects. Outdoor recreation is one. We [also] look at active transportation [and] healthy recreation,” Byrne said. “This would provide a safe route for kids and families.”
Grand County Council Chairperson Jaylyn Hawks says she usually has safety on her mind when she rides her bike along Spanish Valley Drive. “I always breathe a sigh of relief when I get to where the bike path starts by Murphy Lane,” Hawks said. “It’s scary that there’s no shoulder to ride on.”
She said safety measures for bicyclists and pedestrians along Spanish Valley Drive are definitely “needed.”
Grand County Trail Mix Committee Chair Paul Spencer called the project a “huge boon” for Moab residents. He noted that active transportation infrastructure along Spanish Valley Drive will complement the community’s expected growth patterns.
“Moab is a growing community, and the natural growth is going to expand to the south, along Spanish Valley Drive,” Spencer said. “Putting facilities like this in place early on will help make ours a better community.”
Although the Spanish Valley Drive multi-use pathway is not a Trail Mix project, Spencer expects the group to be “actively involved” during the process.
“We often are regarded as a group that does things for tourists, but we are also very involved in doing things that will benefit all of the residents of our community, and plan to assist this effort as much as we can,” Spencer said.
For more information about the RTCA program and the multi-use pathway project, email Byrne at firstname.lastname@example.org.