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Poll: Improve walking access to the beach

... and while you're at it link up some sidewalks

A fun meeting on the state of trails and sidewalks in Dolores utilized electronic audience polling as a tool to measure issues and support for various ideas.

The innovative technique, which allows audience members to vote on various questions using a remote control device with instant results, is the latest community meeting gadget.

"Everyone is very excited about the new trail accessing public lands from town," said Gabe Preston, of RPI Consulting conducting the trail meetings.

The reference is to a non-motorized trail, to be built on the west end of town, that will access the mesa above McPhee Reservoir and connect to the Boggy Draw trail system. The polling showed it has unanimous support, and construction will begin soon pending resolution of easement issues with private landowners at the trailhead.

"But today we will be focusing on in-town pathways, routes and concerns," he said.

A crowd of 30 punched in their responses and voiced opinions.

There is support for a loop-trail system that connects downtown, Hillside Drive, Riverside Drive, the Dolores River Trail and area parks. Missing links would be filled using soft-surface pathways and sidewalk additions.

"We want to connect neighborhoods to services in town so during mud season people can get to schools, parks, library, businesses, the river trail and the post office," said town manager Ryan Mahoney. Interpretive signs explaining natural history and local history would add to the attraction.

The town is working on securing an easement from the Colorado Department of Transportation along the south side of the highway from the Dolores Library to Riverside Park. The plan would install a path dedicated for pedestrians.

Incomplete stretches of sidewalks force most pedestrians to use the streets, except on Highway 145 where the sidewalks have been improved through town and are used more. "Ninth Street is a big feeder road, so maybe a wider sidewalk there so pedestrians feel more comfortable," Mahoney said.

RIVER ACCESS

An area that polling showed needs improvement is the limited pedestrian and bicycle space on the south side of the Fourth Street Bridge heading west to the beach area of the river on Road 30. Thought was also given to improving a fisherman's trail that follows the south side of the river, and connecting it to the beach area at the confluence with Lost Creek.

Crosswalks across Highway 145 at Fourth, Ninth, 11th and 14th streets need to be improved, and the pedestrian signs need to be obeyed better by drivers.

"People never stop. I go with my kids to make sure they can safely cross," said Taz Vass, owner of the Dolores Food Market on Railroad Avenue.

Mahoney said traffic control devices through town would help slow down traffic. Medians, planter boxes, and landscaped "bump-outs" remind drivers they are in a town and to slow down. Crosswalks could also feature warning lights or be built with contrasting materials like brick.

A pedestrian bridge across the river was suggested to offer visitors to Joe Rowell Park better access to the river at the beach.

"We're a river town, but we don't showcase it enough," Mahoney said. "Visitors stop at the playground, but it is not easy access to the river there."

That idea had mixed reviews, with one person stating it would mar the view from the Fourth Street bridge, and another predicting it would be a target for graffiti.

A sampling of responses showed 68 percent walked on streets instead of sidewalks, 58 percent preferred biking for transportation, 75 percent would like to see the gaps in the river trail connected, 50 percent said they use sidewalks for getting around mud, and 65 percent said they would use the sidewalks more if they were better connected.

Mahoney emphasizes that except for the McPhee Rim trail, which is mostly a Forest Service project, the ideas and plans at the meeting are not budged but could be in the future.

"It is more feedback on what the community wants, but some of the smaller sections could fit into our current capital improvement plans," he said. "For the more high-dollar items, we would go after grants to cover costs."

The next trails meeting will be Aug. 8 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

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