City and county officials are inviting local residents and visitors to join them on Saturday, May 31, for a day of celebrations at the Lions Park Transit Hub. (See related story.)
The hub and pathway, which are located at the southeastern intersection of U.S. 191 and state Route 128, are the newest additions to the North Moab Recreation Area.
While the official grand opening is still days away, thousands of people are already using both attractions, according to Moab Trails Alliance Executive Director and grant writer Kim Schappert.
“It’s really a gift that has been given to the community and to the visitors,” she said. “It took a lot of hard work to get to this point, but now it’s done, and it’s great.”
By using the transit hub as a starting point for their bike rides, visitors are doing just what project proponents hoped they would when they laid out their vision for the North Moab Recreation Area.
They came up with the concept as a way to promote safe non-motorized access to area attractions, and Schappert said the transit hub has opened up new recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.
“It is serving that need that we hoped the [adjacent] trail hub would provide,” she said.
Schappert herself is a regular pathway visitor, and she said she’s amazed to see the variety of other people who are using the new attractions, from bike-riding families to sightseers.
She’s also thrilled by the way the funding for the most recent additions came together.
Other components of the overall project, including a paved pathway that runs all the way to state Route 313, were funded in part through matching contributions. But funding for the transit hub and river pathway came entirely from $10 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants, according to Schappert.
In addition to the FTA, Schappert has many other people and entities to thank for their work on the trail hub and pathway, starting with Grand County Facilities Supervisor Marvin Day and his team.
“He’s just doing an incredible job,” Schappert said. “He’s so awesome and he’s wonderful to work with.”
She also praised Day’s crew members, who clean up the transit hub’s restroom facility and haul trash away from the site every day.
“It’s kind of a new area for Grand County as far as maintenance is concerned, and so far, they’re doing an incredible job,” Schappert said.
Horrocks Engineers designed the transit hub and pathway. The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), meanwhile, worked on right-of-way issues, while the U.S. Bureau of Land Management completed environmental clearance work and the city of Moab extended utilities to the hub, according to Schappert.
But Schappert’s list left out at least one other key person, according to Grand County Council Administrator Ruth Dillon: Herself.
“Kim has been the torchbearer from the beginning almost 15 years ago for bringing this entire system to fruition,” Dillon said. “… Her leadership and natural passion for this project carried her through to speak on behalf of the project and to gain buy-in over and over from a constantly changing county council and a change in county engineers. I’m convinced that she also attended a multitude of meetings at the federal level as well, lobbying at some level for this important project.”
With the latest phase of that project now complete, city officials are working with UDOT and Grand County ahead of plans to upgrade the adjacent Lions Park on the other side of state Route 128.
Until recently, project contractors had been using the park as a construction staging area. But over time, it will be transformed into a trails hub, rest area, community park and event location, according to Moab City Engineer Rebecca Andrus.
In the near future, the city is planning to demolish the park’s existing restrooms and replace them with a new facility. Construction work at the park could begin in late fall or early winter, Andrus said.
In the more distant future, Schappert hopes to find project funding to fill in a half-mile gap along the Colorado River Pathway. Right now, the pathway ends just short of the Negro Bill Canyon trailhead, forcing cyclists and others onto a narrow and shoulderless stretch of state Route 128.
Eventually, Schappert would also like to see the Moab Canyon Paved Pathway extended from its current terminus at the U.S. 191-state Route 313 junction all the way to Dead Horse Point State Park.
Bike lanes are already in place along that route, but Schappert thinks the time is right for a new pathway to the park – especially given the increase in oil- and gas-related traffic along the road.
She sees the idea as a fitting tribute to former Times-Independent Publisher Sam Taylor, who successfully pushed for those bike lanes during his time on the state’s transportation commission.
“I always think of him when I ride on that road,” she said. “It would be really neat to continue that path to Dead Horse Point State Park.”