Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was back in his home state yesterday, cutting a ribbon at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge's new visitor center and unveiling several big-as-all-outdoors conservation projects for Colorado. The most ambitious project of all, which he described as his "hope and vision," has to do with linking urban and mountain trails stretching from the state's premiere national park to the Arsenal and the Denver metro area's two other federal wildlife refuges.
The Denver Metro Greenway System, among dozens of projects proposed as part of the Obama administration's "America's Great Outdoors Initiative," would connect the Arsenal to the Two Ponds refuge in Arvada and the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant; the trail links for that phase of the project are expected to be completed next summer. But Salazar's vision goes much further.
About 75 miles further.
According to this article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Salazar sees linking the trails through the refuges as the first step toward a network of trails that would lead from the refuges through the trail systems of Denver and Jefferson County mountain parks and eventually to Rocky Mountain National Park. That would involve some trailblazing, particularly from Roosevelt National Forest lands to the southern borders of RMNP. But Salazar sees a vast web of "uninterrupted" trails that would stretch from Larimer County all the way down to Douglas County, from the remote backcountry of the Continental Divide to the grasslands and buffalo of the Arsenal -- with, of course, a tour of Rocky Flats in the bargain.
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Can the funds and wherewithal be found for such a grand scheme? Could such a journey actually be accomplished without dodging too many tractor trailers and rampaging Winnebagos? Would the same people who seek out the remoter areas of RMNP be inclined to shlep all the way to the wildlife refuges, hemmed in by highways and pollution, or would they rather stay far, far away?
It's clear the idea is still in its infancy -- this fact sheet on the greenway system only hints that "a future goal of the project could be to expand" the refuge links into the mountains. But give the Secretary some points for thinking big.
Now, about that bullet train from Union Station to Vail...
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