Residents question trails proposal
Town officials stress plan 'not set in stone'
Parts of a long-term, conceptual trails plan in Dolores received scrutiny Monday, Oct. 28, from Merritt Way residents, local businesses, and the Dolores Town Board.
An idea to connect Riverside Park across the river and to Merritt Way via a footpath raised concerns of increased traffic, dust and illegal parking.
"The extra traffic and additional dust is a hazard for residents and a health issue for asthmatics in my family," said Tim Mueller. "I feel if that part of the plan was implemented Merritt Way would need to be paved."
Werner Kress agreed that public access to Riverside Park from that road would be hurt the neighborhood.
"There will be more traffic, whether you have a parking lot or not or put up no-parking signs, people will go up and park on the street, or on private property, to access the path and the river," he said.
Mueller added the narrow road already sees cyclists and walkers, many of whom "walk down the middle."
"Adding more because of new access to the park would be dangerous because of turns and blind spots," he said
More people invariably brings more pets, pet waste and trash, said Bill Lucky, a Merritt Way resident.
"If you buy that land and put a bridge across, don't include our road because it will intensify the situation," he said.
The board is considering adopting the wide-ranging trails plan as a general guideline for current and future boards to choose from, depending on available funding. Some felt it needed more discussion.
Board member Ginger Black thought the idea to purchase land and build a bridge across the river to expand Riverside Park to be "ridiculous."
"I don't care for shooting for the moon," said Black, who owns the Outpost Hotel. "There are so many other things that need attention in this town. We need sidewalks all over, and that can take years to put in."
She questioned the impact that out-of-town hikers and bikers bring.
"The past two years, not one mountain cyclist has stayed with me, and not one hiker has stayed with me. They don't bring money," she said. "The town trails are great for locals."
Merritt Way resident Bob Newcombe wondered why the town would adopt a plan that includes a proposal to expand Riverside Park before determining if the land is even available to buy.
Board attorney Mike Green emphasized that the plan identifies local trail and pedestrian needs and also explores larger ideas, but it is not set in stone.
"By adopting it, you're not committing to anything," Green said. "Each and every year, this plan will get reviewed and voted on and be part of the budget process. There will be plenty of opportunity to be involved anytime the town discusses spending money to do a component within the plan."
Dolores Mayor Val Truelsen suggested altering the plan to eliminate the footpath up to Merritt Way.
The plan explores the use of curb "bumpouts" at busy highway crosswalks to improve pedestrian visibility and slow traffic. It also proposes a greenway buffer with a trail along the highway shoulder to connect the library with Riverside Park.
But concern was raised that the changes would limit parking along the road used by businesses and travelers.
In a comment letter, Tazewell Vass, owner of Dolores Food Market, objected to the proposed bumpouts and greenway buffer on the highway starting at 11th Street.
"Our businesses are sensitive to accessible parking on Highway 145," Vass said. "Camper trailers, stock trailers, motorhomes, boat trailers, ATV trailers all stop for food from businesses in Dolores. Semi-truck drivers tell me that Dolores is the first place they can park to get something to eat between Dolores and Durango."
Truelsen also did not like parts of the plan that limited parking in town.
"A lot of big rigs and cattleman pull over on the highway to shop at our businesses," he said. "Combination of bumpouts and a highway buffer there would take out one-third of available parking."
Board Trustee Colette Heeney cautioned that bumpouts and buffers are appropriate in some areas and said the town needs improved pedestrian safety crossing the highway.
"Eventually someone is going to get hit because you can't see around the parked vehicles and the speeding cars can't see you," she said. "They don't have to be on every block but in some areas the bumpouts might be a good idea."
Taking into account public input, the board should consider developing a more specific timeline for trails, sidewalks, and pathways for the next two to three years, Truelsen said.
Clerk/Treasurer Lana Hancock stressed that parks and trails are secondary to town maintenance.
The board decided to postpone consideration adoption of the plan until December to allow additional public comment. The public can view the recently completed comprehensive trails plan at Town Hall.