Rocky Mountain Greenway gets extra funding

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By The Staff

COMMERCE CITY -- The Rocky Mountain Greenway project picked up a lot of money Feb. 18.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood joined Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced more than $1.7 million in funding for the project. It's part of the Federal Transit Administration’s Transit in Parks program, will help establish an uninterrupted trail and open space network in the Denver metropolitan area.

“The Rocky Mountain Greenway is a shining example of what happens when strong federal, state, local and private partnerships align to take the vision of this uninterrupted trail and open space network and turn it into a reality for the Denver metropolitan area,” Secretary Salazar said. “Already we’ve constructed important links in the greenway, and today’s funding will help complete another critical section to connect Denver’s hundreds of miles of trails.”

“In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama called on us to upgrade our nation’s transportation infrastructure to help grow our economy and improve energy efficiency,” said Secretary LaHood. “By working with the Department of the Interior, we are improving access to modern transit services through our scenic parklands and helping preserve these national treasures for future generations.”

"The Rocky Mountain Greenway will improve access and connections to the great outdoors for all Coloradans," Hickenlooper said. "We want to thank the private, local, state and federal partners that have worked to create this critical space for wildlife and visitors. These trails and open spaces will create excellent recreation opportunities that are accessible from the Denver metro area and will help Coloradans in our goal to be the healthiest state."

Salazar and Hickenlooper first proposed the greenway in 2011. When it's finished, the result will be a comprehensive trail system connecting three national wildlife refuges -- Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Two Ponds, and Rocky Flats -- to Rocky Mountain National Park and to hundreds of miles of trails in the Denver metropolitan area.

Officials hope the extra connection points will provide Denver area residents and visitors greater access to rivers, parks, open spaces and other outdoor wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities. The national wildlife refuges will anchor the trail network and offer additional birding, hiking, fishing and environmental education opportunities.

The Rocky Mountain Greenway partnership, which includes she State of Colorado, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local municipalities and nongovernmental organizations, applied for and received more than $1.7 million in funding through a Sarbanes Transit in Parks grant. The grant will provide for the initial design and construction of the western trail link, connecting Rocky Flats and Two Ponds national wildlife refuges to the Greater Denver trail system.  The new trail link will be approximately 7 miles long.

The Feb. 18 announcement builds on the recent completion of the Greenway’s eastern trail link, which stretches about three miles from the Sand Creek trail to the visitor center at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

“We are exceptionally pleased with the significant progress of this collaborative effort and thanks to our Rocky Mountain Greenway partners, we are well on our way to improving connectivity from the Rocky Mountains down to the prairie landscape,” said Noreen Walsh, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. “This project shows that together we can conserve landscapes while increasing access to America’s great outdoors for all citizens.”