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La Veta master plan prioritizes river trail, town park, amenities for older residents

by Mark Craddock
LA VETA  — It was more than a year in the making, and collected about another year’s worth of dust before formal consideration, but La Veta’s long-awaited “Parks, Open Spaces and Trails Master Plan” was unanimously approved Oct. 5 by the town board.

After the vote, Mayor Doug Brgoch asked Marilyn Russell, president of La Veta Trails and a principal proponent of the plan, if she would like to comment.

“I’m just so happy tonight is happening,” she said.

“I hope everybody takes time to read the master plan,” Brgoch said. “I like the way it’s laid out in terms of conceptualization, the approach that how things are done is more important than the litany of what comes first, what comes second and what comes third.”

There are, however, priorities in the plan, top among them include design and implementation of a trail along Ryus Ave., Aspen Street and Garland Street, trail signage and a new playground at the Town Park.

The master plan’s stated vision is “to create an interconnected community-based system of parks, open spaces and trails for people of all ages and abilities and connect to the regional system. With the help of strategic partners, community members and visitors will be able to enjoy and see all La Veta has to offer. The local history, arts and people are what makes La Veta unique.”

The document articulates six goals to achieve this vision:
– to develop a trail system with directional and informational signage that connects to key city facilities with recreational amenities, as well as the future La Veta school;
–  to upgrade parks, open spaces and trails to meet community needs and desires;
–  to provide additional recreational access to the Cucharas River;
–  to recognize the economic benefits of parks, open spaces and trails to the community;
–  and to use traditional and creative mechanisms for funding existing and new recreational amenities.

The plan proposes “a logical sequence of phasing for development based on the town’s finances and projects that will help engage the community to build momentum.”

Specifically, it calls for an estimated $15,000 in trail signage; $179,100 in new playground and fitness equipment; $9,770 for the river trail along Ryus, Aspen and Garland; and $146,000 for a pedestrian bridge to connect Garland Street to the river trail as the town’s top priorities.

Among secondary-priority projects is a new park in the northwest part of town which would incorporate a dog park, a “sky garden” for observing the night sky and a pump track – a mountain biking track that would allow La Veta to host USA Pump Track competitions. The estimated price tag for that project would be around $1.2 million.

In all, the master plan calls for an estimated total construction cost of over $5.8 million, based on 2019/2020 pricing.
The master plan proposes projects could be funded through various sources such as Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Colorado Health Foundation (CHF), Colorado Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed Fund, and the “Next 50 Initiative.”

One thread running through the document emphasizes projects that would appeal to older residents, based on results of community surveys conducted early in the planning process.

The report says that, of the 121 people who responded to the survey, 65% were over age 50. Walking was rated as the number-one activity, with 88% saying they regularly walk during the summer and 80% saying they walk during winter months as well. Four of the most-used facilities are Town Park (79%), Wahatoya Lake Trail (69%), Diagre Reservoir Trail (55%) and School Nature Trail (52%).

Public meetings on the master plan were held on Nov. 19, 2019 and Feb. 27, 2020, and La Veta Trails hosted two subsequent focus groups that focused on residents over age 55, which were originally planned as face-to-face meetings but were changed to remote meetings because of COVID-19.
Top priority from the focus groups was the desire for a river trail that allows for biking and walking. Restrooms, safe sidewalks and benches were also highly prioritized amenities.
Focus group participants reported they were walking and exercising outside more as a result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The master plan also drew from prior planning and research done by the town, including:
– “Design Guidance Accommodating Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel in La Veta,” completed in 2002;
– “Town of La Veta Comprehensive Plan for Parks and Open Spaces and Trails,” completed in 2003;
– “La Veta Community Survey,” 2011;
– “Bike-Walk Huerfano County Survey,” 2017;
– “Rural Active Living Assessment,” a collaborative effort between La Veta Trails and the the school district for the “Next 50 Initiative” to assess conditions in La Veta that promote or inhibit active living.