5280 Trail Would Create a 5-Mile Park and Trail Around Downtown 

An aerial view of downtown highlights the location of the proposed 5280 Trail. Image: Downtown Denver Partnership
An aerial view of downtown highlights the location of the proposed 5280 Trail. Image: Downtown Denver Partnership
An illustration depicts the plaza in front of Union Station extending across the entire street, an option being considered under the 5280 Trail Project. Image: Downtown Denver Partnership
An illustration depicts the plaza in front of Union Station extending across Wynkoop Street, an option being considered under the 5280 Trail Project. Image: Downtown Denver Partnership

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.”

Adam Perkins, project manager of the 5280 Trail for the Downtown Denver Partnership. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Adam Perkins, urban designer and project manager of the 5280 Trail project for the Downtown Denver Partnership. Photo: Andy Bosselman

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.

A map depicts the location of the proposed 5280 Trail. Map: Downtown Denver Partnership

“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.” 

A group of officials ride along the 5.28 mile route that the 5280 Traill will follow following the press conference yesterday. Photo: Andy Bosselman
A group of officials ride on the Auraria campus yesterday during a ride along the proposed 5.28 mile route that the 5280 Traill will follow. Photo: Andy Bosselman

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.

City Councilperson Christ Hinds, district 10, expresses his excitement for the 5280 Trail. Photo: Andy Bosselman
City Councilperson Christ Hinds, district 10, expresses his excitement for the 5280 Trail. Photo: Andy Bosselman

“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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  • mckillio

    This would be such a big deal if it actually happens. I’d like to see 21st, Wynkoop, and Sherman completed due to their high visibility and immediate impact.

    P.s. I really wish the city would have donation options/buttons on their project web pages, I’d donate in a second to thing like this and it would be a great way for them to gauge how to prioritize projects.

  • TakeFive
  • Camera_Shy

    This looks like it would be awesome! Bring it on!!

  • Brent Mowery

    The city recently constructed a portion of the trail on 21st Street at Broadway, although it doesn’t have the special trail pavers from the design guidelines.

    https://denverite.com/2017/10/19/5280-loop-bike-path-denver/

  • Chris

    Can this be started quicker in a cheaper, incremental way? Seems that for far less than $67M, the city could just use traffic barriers to close the route to car traffic. That is the main draw and would get a this started quickly. The city could then incrementally build improvements like park features. The main draw here is to remove cars so people have a safe area to get around and spend time. Why do we have to take a decade planning and finding funds so it can be built to a final state immediately? Success projects like this can happen quickly for low cost. Look at how Barcelona started the super blocks in their city. They started out by simply putting up barriers to keep cars out. The rest progressed from there.

    • mckillio

      This won’t remove cars from every part of it.

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