The Whipple Trail corridor will be upgraded to handle growing popularity
The City of Buena Vista will launch a trail project later this fall to address erosion, safety issues, congestion and other issues on the popular Whipple Trail, which begins on the east side of the city bridge over the Arkansas River. Use of the bridge and trail continues to grow. Improvements are increasingly needed. In fact, an average of 600 people per day were counted in July, a 20% increase from the previous year.
More than 140,000 trail users crossed the bridge in 2021, according to Bureau of Land Management trail counter data compiled by the Buena Vista Singletrack Coalition (BVSC).
The Whipple Bridge and Trail are Buena Vista River Park’s gateways to an extensive network of non-motorized, multi-use trails in the Midland region of the Fourmile Travel Management Area. The trail connects municipal lands with public lands and is among the busiest in Colorado.
The trail is in dire need of repairs and upgrades to protect its users and the natural environment, said Earl Richmond, recreation special projects manager for the city.
The trail parallels the east side of the river about 50 feet above the water, with no official river access. “As a result, many user-created social trails loosen the soil and cause erosion and sediment deposition in the water,” Richmond said.
Social pathways direct stormwater runoff to the river, carrying footprints, trash, and dog feces along the way. In many places the trail is too narrow for pedestrians to pass safely.
Improvements on the first 1,500 feet will widen the track to industry standards and improve tread durability as problem areas are redirected.
Three official paths to the river and two lookouts will be established on the third mile section to replace unsustainable user-created routes. Restoration efforts and signage will prevent future resource damage and sediment issues.
The city received a $44,700 Chaffee Common Ground grant for the project. BVSC donated $10,000 and the City of Buena Vista provided $15,500.
“The trail improvements will improve access to our beautiful river for a wider range of users and make it safer as there will be ample room to cross,” said BVSC Board Chair. , Kelly Collins, who also chairs the city’s trails advisory board. Both entities provide in-kind services.
A team from the Southwest Conservation Corps completed preliminary work on the project this spring, trimming branches and building retaining walls to support the wider trail, open up viewpoints and improve the sloping path to the stair wave of the B.V. Whitewater Park.
The trail will be closed periodically throughout the eight-week project, which is expected to begin in early October. Completion is scheduled for the end of November. For trail access updates, go to https://www.facebook.com/BVParksandRec.
The restoration of Whipple Trail is one of the major projects in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan. It prioritizes critical infrastructure needs to meet the growing use of outdoor recreation and its impacts.
The project is located within one of the plan’s community focus areas, designated to focus development and improvements around populated centers in the county to support continued quality outdoor experiences while protecting the natural environment.
For more information, contact [email protected]
Featured Image: Whipple Trail Restoration Map. Courtesy of the City of Buena Vista.