Animas River Trail Extension Connects Durango Residents to New Park and River
A newly completed section of the Animas River Trail (ART), a project more than ten years in the making, has recently opened, extending the ART to Oxbow Park and Preserve in Durango, Colorado. The trail provides connectivity between downtown, parks, and the library, to miles of other trail systems, and now to Oxbow Park and the Animas River itself.
Oxbow Park and Preserve is a 44-acre area along the Animas River in north Durango with about 38 acres dedicated as a natural preserve for wildlife habitat. The newly completed North Extension of the Animas River Trail is part of the City’s multi-million dollar plan to extend the trail to a new river access point at the park. With the completion of the extension, Durango residents and visitors are now able to safely access the river and enjoy the expanded amenities at Oxbow Park and Preserve.
Initially hired by the City of Durango in 2008 to complete the planning and alignment alternative analysis for the North Extension, Otak has been the lead design firm on all aspects of the trail. At that time, the project extended from Memorial Park to the Iron Horse (2 miles north). Under the leadership of project engineer and trail design manager, Scott Belonger, an alignment study and final construction documents were provided for the segment through Animas City Park in 2011. The project was then put on hold until property ownership and right of way issues were resolved. Because much of the trail work has been within the narrow Durango and Silverton railroad right of way, extensive structures were required as was broad public outreach.
In 2017, Otak was hired to also complete the design for the southern half of the original alignment study (from Memorial Park to Oxbow Park). Scott and his team have completed the final design/construction documents, which were divided into three subsegments. While Segments 2 and 3 have already been built, the redesign of Segment 1, which was pending the resolution of property issues, is now underway. The redesign is slated to be completed in early 2021, with the goal to construct Segment 1 later in 2021.
As a major city artery and asset for the City of Durango, the North Extension of the Animas River Trail presented a unique set of challenges. For instance, one mile of the North Extension shares a narrow corridor with the tracks of the historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, used daily by dozens of trains. Extensive retaining walls were needed to fit the trail between the railroad tracks, adjacent homes, and the Animas River. The design took into consideration a number of issues including safety, privacy concerns, impacts to adjacent properties, and aesthetics.
Otak has been instrumental throughout the project’s more than ten-year span, providing project management, trail-design, and civil and structural engineering. The Otak Team included Scott Belonger, PE, Scott Kallase, EIT, Dan Beltzer, PE, David Graff, PE, Steve Florian, Senior Designer, Peter Loris, PE SE, and engineering designer Michael Cunningham.