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

No final decision on the multi-use trail connection has been made.

Further analysis of the potential multi-use connection will occur as part of the upcoming Eldorado Canyon State Park Visitor Use Management Plan (VUMP) lead by CPW. The VUMP will consider allowing mountain biking along the north route conceptual corridor from the 2018 feasibility study. This new use will be considered along with other potential future uses of the park identified during the planning process. An alternative that does not complete the multi-use connection will also be considered.

Based on the findings of the feasibility study, partner agency recommendation, and guidance provided by the open space boards and Boulder County Commissioners, it is unlikely there will be further study or consideration of the south route.

The three agencies continue to be aligned with gathering additional information that responds to the interests of all three land managers as well as the visiting public and adjacent communities.

It is envisioned that after the VUMP, and if consideration of the north route is recommended, then a comprehensive partner agency recommendation package will be brought to the community and governing bodies for consideration.

Visitor Use Management Plan

Due to capacity related concerns of Eldorado Canyon State Park and residents of Eldorado Springs and the need to address increased visitation, CPW will initiate an expedited Visitor Use Management Plan (VUMP). The planning process is anticipated to begin in July 2019 with expected completion in late 2020.

The VUMP will kick off with a public process this summer with involvement from and collaboration among community stakeholders including the agency partner representatives from OSMP, BCPOS, and Boulder County Transportation, the Colorado Department of Transportation as well as the Eldorado Springs community, and a diverse set of state park recreationalists including climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, bird watchers, and picnickers. CPW is interested in hearing creative ideas and in sitting down with interested stakeholders to come up with creative solutions.

Some possible strategies that are currently being used in other popular recreation destinations, and that could be considered in the planning process include:

  • Shuttle or bus services to limit vehicle traffic.
  • Infrastructure redesign and improvements.
  • Trail redesign and improvements.
  • Permit and reservation systems.
  • Limits on use by visitor type and days of the week.

Other Efforts

Concurrent to the VUMP, Boulder County Transportation will pursue potential transportation management strategies to alleviate existing capacity and traffic congestion issues in the area. These include improvements to the private portion of Eldorado Springs Road, shoulder widening along SH170 to accommodate bicyclist travel, and a potential shuttle connecting the state park/community with the city of Boulder during peak visitation days/months. Further planning and development of these initiatives will coincide with the VUMP process.

Future design and refinement of the north route to minimize environmental impacts and potential visitor conflicts will occur subsequent to the VUMP and only if the North Route is recommended for further consideration. Efforts will be made to facilitate efficiency so that trail design work and related analysis can occur closely following a potential north route recommendation.

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