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Eldorado Canyon to Walker Ranch Connection Feasibility Study
Walker Ranch Area

Eldorado Canyon to Walker Ranch Connection Feasibility Study

In 2018, the Eldorado Canyon to Walker Ranch Trail Feasibility Study was completed to investigate and analyze trail options for a multi-use connection. The study was a partnership of Boulder County Parks & Open Space (BCPOS), the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP), and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

Current Status & Next Steps

Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) released the draft Eldorado Canyon State Park (ECSP) Management Plan for public comment on Monday, April 26, 2021. Boulder County staff received the draft plan at the same time it was released to the public. CPW informed Boulder County that they will no longer consider the potential for an Eldorado Canyon to Walker Ranch multi-use trail connection across state park land in an email on Friday, April 23.

Boulder County Parks & Open Space, in collaboration with county staff from Community Planning and Permitting, will review the plan and provide comments to CPW. The review will focus on management consistency and ensuring no adverse effects are anticipated to our adjacent and nearby land and unincorporated Boulder County community members.

Public comments will be accepted by CPW until May 25. The draft plan and comment form are available on the state’s Eldorado Canyon State Park Management Plan webpage.

Other Efforts

Boulder County Community Permitting & Planning (CPP) piloted the Eldorado Canyon State Park Shuttle in 2020 to alleviate existing capacity and traffic congestion issues in the area. The Eldo Shuttle service will begin Saturday, May 29, for the 2021 season.

Other strategies under consideration include improvements to the private portion of Eldorado Springs Road and shoulder widening along SH170 to accommodate bicyclist travel. Further planning and development of these initiatives will coincide with the ECSP process.

Feasibility Study

The feasibility study evaluated two conceptual corridors to make a multi-use connection between Eldorado Canyon State Park and Walker Ranch. While there is an existing pedestrian/equestrian link, the trail is too steep and rocky to accommodate bicyclists.

The study focused on a North Route (consisting of N1, N2, and N3 or N4 sub-alignments as identified in the plan) and a South Route (comprised of S1, S2 or S3, and S4 sub-alignments).

The feasibility study identified over a dozen trail alignments for initial consideration. Through field visits and meetings with adjacent property owners, there were several routes dismissed. A No Action option and two alignment corridors, each with four sub-alignments were retained for further analysis. These are described below and are included on the map.

Partner Agency Recommendation

After collaboration to complete the feasibility study, careful consideration of the findings, and public input from community stakeholders, OSMP, BCPOS, and CPW recommended the North Route (using segments N1-N2-N4) as the preferred alignment for a multi-use connection for consideration by Boulder County and City of Boulder open space advisory boards.

The partner agencies also recommended continued collaboration among the city, county, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife stakeholders to develop and implement strategies that mitigate capacity-related issues impacting the greater Eldorado Springs community, and support ensuring that capacity mitigation efforts are identified, funded, and executed, and relevant metrics are met prior to initiating construction of trail.

Since the development of the partner agency recommendation, CPW announced their intent to further consider the north route conceptual corridor evaluated in the 2018 feasibility study along with consideration of an alternative that does not complete the multi-use connection as part of the VUMP process.

Board Meetings & Hearings

Two public hearings were held to consider a partner agency recommendation, one in January 2019 by the Boulder County Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC), and one in February 2019 by the City of Boulder Open Space Board of Trustees (OSBT).

The feasibility study findings, partner agency recommendation, and direction provided by both POSAC and OSBT all support continued collaboration on additional planning and community engagement to address capacity related impacts on Eldorado Canyon State Park and the Eldorado Springs community. The city and county open space boards’ guidance also suggests that attention be focused on considering a north route for the preferred alignment, although no final determination on the construction of a trail or the specific alignment has been made.

Boulder of County Commissioners Meeting

A public hearing and decision by the Boulder of County Commissioners (BOCC) was postponed, both in response to community and board feedback gathered during the public hearings and at the request of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. In lieu of the public hearing, Boulder County Parks & Open Space staff presented an update on March 21, 2019 to the BOCC on the status of the proposed interagency multi-use trail connection.

The BOCC supports continued collaboration to gather additional information and address the capacity-related issues associated with park visitation.

Public Engagement

Two community engagement windows were held during the planning process prior to consideration by the city and county open space boards.

The first was in August of 2018. The project partners hosted an open house and comment period on 1) the project timeline and process, 2) the analysis topics to be used to evaluate the alternatives, and 3) the routes to be included in the feasibility study. Over 100 people attended the open house, and approximately 475 comments were received. Two documents capturing this feedback Compendium of Initial Public Comments and Summary and Responses to Initial Public Comments).

The second window of engagement took place in late November/early December 2018. The project partners presented the feasibility report and preliminary partner recommendation for community review and feedback. An open house on Nov. 28, 2018 coincided with the start of the comment period. Community members were provided with a questionnaire asking how supportive, or not, they were of the recommendation and why. Approximately 150 people attended the open house and approximately 675 comments were received. Three documents capturing this feedback Summary of Online Questionnaire Responses, Online Questionnaire Responses, and Compendium of Comments received by Written Correspondence.) Overall, a majority (76%) of the individuals who provided feedback indicated support for the preliminary agency recommendation. Respondents who supported the agency recommendation expressed a variety of reasons why, the most frequent being that the route provides an enjoyable and quality visitor experience, meets desired bike trail design standards and has minimal new environment impacts. The 21% of respondents who supported the No Action alternative expressed a variety of reasons, the most frequent being a concern that bike users will impact exiting trail/park users, concerns about increased visitor density and potential conflict along existing trails, additional traffic through Eldorado Springs, environmental impacts, parking and increased visitation to the park. Approximately 90% of Eldorado Springs residents who provided feedback did not support the preliminary agency recommendation. A common theme expressed by many respondents, regardless of their level of support was that access, local traffic congestion, and parking impacts to the State Park and greater Eldorado Springs community need to be addressed as part of the commitment to plan, design and construct a multi-use trail connection.

Public comments received after the formal public comment window closed are provided on the Compendium of Comments Received.

Self-Guided Tour

The self-guided tour is designed as two separate two-hour round trip hikes and offer trail users an opportunity to experience the terrain and to view portions for the North and South route conceptual alignments. The first is along the existing Eldorado Canyon Trail to become familiar with the north route alignment. The second, along the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail, is the access trail to the South route option and includes stops that offer a birds eye view of the south draw portion of the south route as well as the N1 North Route.

The below PDFs and KMZ files are georeferenced. They can be used in apps like Avenza Maps and ArcGIS Explorer that allow offline use and can use your device’s built-in GPS to track your location on the map.

Background

For many years, there has been a desire to create a multi-use link that could reasonably accommodate bicycles. While there is an existing pedestrian/equestrian link between Eldorado Canyon State Park and Walker Ranch, the trail is steep and rocky to accommodate bicyclists. It also shows signs of erosion that present challenges for sustainable trail maintenance practices. An objective of the feasibility study is to evaluate options to realign the existing trail or to construct a new trail. A requirement is that both options would accommodate multi-use recreation.

Support for a feasibility study to evaluate a multi-use trail that includes bicyclists is identified in the following plans:

The connection also is identified as one of “the Colorado 16” (16 in 2016) priority trails in the 2016-2026 Colorado State Trails Plan and Department of Natural Resources Colorado the Beautiful program.

Contact Us

Boulder County
Parks & Open Space

Marni Ratzel
303-678-6271

City of Boulder
Open Space and Mountain Parks

Kacey French
303-441-3440

Colorado
Parks and Wildlife

John Carson
303-494-3943