5280 Trail Would Create a 5-Mile Park and Trail Around Downtown
Yesterday city officials presented a vision for The 5280 Trail, a “linear park” that could one day form a five-mile loop around downtown Denver. It would transform streets into tree-lined places for plazas, playgrounds and public art — while creating a low-stress place for people to stroll and ride bikes.
“This 5280 Trail is going to connect neighborhoods and people through this amazing and vibrant downtown area,” said Happy Haynes, executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation, at a press conference in the downtown headquarters of the Gates Corporation. “We know how important, particularly in urban areas in this core of the city, parks and open spaces are.”
Officials hope the trail, which was previously known as the 5280 Loop, will be finished within five to 10 years, but they’re a long way from breaking ground. Yesterday’s announcement signaled the close of the initial vision process and the start of the first design phase, said Adam Perkins, the manager of the project for the Downtown Denver Partnership, which initiated the plan.
“We’re marking the transition from vision to design,” he said. “The vision is rethinking our streets to put people first.”
Denver officials compare the project to The High Line Park in New York, which rests on a once-abandoned elevated rail track. But Denver’s idea is to keep the park at ground level so it can also serve as a low-stress way for people to get around by walking or biking. With sidewalks and bikeways designed to prioritize people over cars, the plan could help to reverse the trend of rapidly increasing traffic violence in Denver.
“We have too many people who are at risk of losing their lives,” said Eulois Cleckly, who heads the Department of Public Works and its so-far unsuccessful Vision Zero program to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries. “This is a great mobility project. But this is also a safety project.”
The trail would help Denver live up to its image as a rugged town in the Rocky Mountains, too, an idea that attracts many people to the city, said Andrew Iltis, senior manager of transportation and mobility for the Downtown Denver Partnership, which initiated the plan.
“When you move here, you think you’re coming to this mountain town and you don’t get much of that,” he said. “5280 gives us the opportunity to infuse a bit of outdoor culture into our downtown.”
The trail would also help people in several neighborhoods get in and out of downtown more easily by walking or biking.
“The vision is to create some places to cut through the arterials and get into the heart of the city on bike or on foot,” said Iltis.
For District 10 City Councilperson Chris Hinds, the trail would open up more options for his constituents to get around without a car.
“We get a lot of the things we need within a 20 minute walk, ride or roll by living in the urban core,” he said. “But with the 5280 trail, we’ll have a signature area for us to engage with nature, engage with our neighbors — and do it in a safe way.”
Grants have provided funding for the project to date. The city will now provide $850,000 to design the first segment, an 11-block site that starts on 21st Street at Coors Field, according to Perkins. A decade ago, a similar project in Indianapolis cost $67 million, with roughly half coming from private donations and the rest from federal grants. Denver’s project would likely cost more. A cost estimate and funding sources have not been identified.
Planners designed the park to extend roughly 5.280 miles to match Denver’s mile-high elevation of 5,280 feet.
To learn more about the project, see the Downtown Denver Partnership’s 5280 Trail website.
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