With an eye toward designing and planning a multi-use pathway along Spanish Valley Drive, county officials hope to gain the expertise of the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program. The Grand County Community Development Department, with primarily bi-partisan support, recently applied to the federal organization for planning assistance on this project, which would extend Moab’s active transportation network.
“[RTCA has] planners and landscape architects that could help us throughout the planning and design process,” said Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine. “It’s another set of eyes on it and they can also provide technical assistance and some direction in terms of potential funding strategies when we get to subsequent stages.”
Last year, the county committed $100,000 to a multi-use pathway on Spanish Valley Drive that would serve both pedestrians and bicyclists.
Although “nothing is set in stone” at this point, Levine’s application to the RTCA indicated the active transportation corridor could run either 5.5 miles or 7.5 miles in length.
“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.
Applying to the RTCA for planning assistance, Levine said, is a means to make the county’s $100,000 allocation go farther.
“My application to the RTCA program was really an effort to try to leverage that $100,000 to do something more and get assistance from the RTCA to make sure that money is spent wisely,” Levine said.
According to their website, the Park Service’s RTCA program has assisted more than 350 communities with natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects.
Current projects in Utah include a 7.5-mile trail along the San Juan River in Bluff, as well interpretive and educational resources for Salt Lake valley’s urban ranger program.
If awarded the RTCA support, Levine said, the organization would provide in-kind planning services to determine the best available design for the pathway.
“Although an ideal design would be a separated bike and pedestrian path from point to point, the planning and design phases will determine if that’s feasible,” Levine said. “So it may turn out that it’s a separated path in some areas, protected shoulders in others, and a painted bike lane in others.”
Although there’s a chance Grand County would not receive RTCA assistance — Levine will likely find out this fall — he said the county’s $100,000 commitment can still make the planning and design phase happen for the project.
He said the corridor has garnered bi-partisan support, noting that former council member Lynn Jackson first championed the $100,000 commitment to the project.
Jackson told The Times-Independent that an active transportation corridor on Spanish Valley Drive is necessary for the community, many of whom would bike or walk the road more frequently if it were made safe.
“This trail I think would be used primarily by local residents out here in the valley,” Jackson said. “... I thought it would be something for our own community’s benefit, which we really need. If it were easy, I believe [the trail] would have already been done. It will probably take a number of years, but it’s a really great, worthwhile project.”
Current council members are also behind the project. On July 5, the council voted unanimously to approve a letter of support from vice-chairwoman Mary McGann to the RTCA.
“As a Council, we are committed to serving the residents of Grand County and believe this pathway is an important part of our transportation and recreation infrastructure,” McGann wrote.
Levine said that extending active transportation options for Moab and Grand County residents just makes sense “for a number of reasons.”
“Active transportation has a strong, positive link to positive health outcomes for both physical and mental health,” Levine said. “I think it’s an important asset for the community in terms of quality of life. I hear from people that they would walk or bike more often on Spanish Valley Drive if there was a safe alternative rather than riding on the road.”
In addition, he said, an active transportation corridor could assist lower income residents who might live outside of the city’s center, but commute to work or the grocery store.
“For any households that are low- or very-low-income, an active transportation option would reduce the cost of living when locating farther from city limits where our jobs and shopping exist,” Levine said.
Moab City Parks, Recreation and Trails Director Tif Miller said such a corridor could increase safety for commuters and allow more access for recreation, while extending the active transportation projects already happening in the city.
“We are looking to the future to plan for ways to grow and improve the city’s trail system as well,” Miller said. “These paths are important for both commuters and for those looking for recreation opportunities, and we look forward to the project along Spanish Valley Drive to allow more access and safety for commuters and recreation as well.”