Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood joined Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper today to announce more than $1.7 million in new funding for the Rocky Mountain Greenway. The funding, 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," said Governor Hickenlooper. "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."
Completion of the Rocky Mountain Greenway, first proposed by Salazar and Hickenlooper in May, 2011, will result in 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.
This greater connectivity 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, including the State of Colorado, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local municipalities and nongovernmental organizations applied for and received the $1,735,000 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.
Today's 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.
The National Park Service continues to work with local partners on a conceptual alignment for the trail from the Denver metropolitan area to the Rocky Mountain National Park and will be issuing a draft proposal for public review and comment.
In late December, partners celebrated another key conservation milestone for the Rocky Mountain Greenway with the completion of a major refuge expansion. The transaction and land exchange added approximately 1,200 acres of important wildlife habitat protection to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, increasing the refuge's total size by nearly one-third.
The refuge's expansion permanently conserves a wildlife corridor from the city to Colorado's Front Range and extends the protections of the National Wildlife Refuge System to a large, contiguous and intact tract of xeric tallgrass prairie. Xeric tallgrass prairie only exists on a narrow band of the Colorado Piedmont, east of the mountain front in Colorado.
Many federal, state, local and private partners worked together for more than four years to complete expansion of the refuge to include and protect Section 16, the portion of land now part of the 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."