Ken Salazar wants us to take a hike, from Rocky Mountain National Park to... Rocky Flats?

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Thumbnail image for salazar portrait.jpg
Ken Salazar.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was back in his home state yesterday, cutting a ribbon at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge's new visitor center and unveiling several big-as-all-outdoors conservation projects for Colorado. The most ambitious project of all, which he described as his "hope and vision," has to do with linking urban and mountain trails stretching from the state's premiere national park to the Arsenal and the Denver metro area's two other federal wildlife refuges.

The Denver Metro Greenway System, among dozens of projects proposed as part of the Obama administration's "America's Great Outdoors Initiative," would connect the Arsenal to the Two Ponds refuge in Arvada and the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant; the trail links for that phase of the project are expected to be completed next summer. But Salazar's vision goes much further.

About 75 miles further.

According to this article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan, Salazar sees linking the trails through the refuges as the first step toward a network of trails that would lead from the refuges through the trail systems of Denver and Jefferson County mountain parks and eventually to Rocky Mountain National Park. That would involve some trailblazing, particularly from Roosevelt National Forest lands to the southern borders of RMNP. But Salazar sees a vast web of "uninterrupted" trails that would stretch from Larimer County all the way down to Douglas County, from the remote backcountry of the Continental Divide to the grasslands and buffalo of the Arsenal -- with, of course, a tour of Rocky Flats in the bargain.

Can the funds and wherewithal be found for such a grand scheme? Could such a journey actually be accomplished without dodging too many tractor trailers and rampaging Winnebagos? Would the same people who seek out the remoter areas of RMNP be inclined to shlep all the way to the wildlife refuges, hemmed in by highways and pollution, or would they rather stay far, far away?

It's clear the idea is still in its infancy -- this fact sheet on the greenway system only hints that "a future goal of the project could be to expand" the refuge links into the mountains. But give the Secretary some points for thinking big.

Now, about that bullet train from Union Station to Vail...

More from our News archive: "Ken Salazar: Frustration riding high over his wild horse plan."

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Judging from the lack of response, either WW's readers are either out hiking or have no interest in hiking -- it's a bit early for them to be out, so I suspect it's the latter.  Along with adult classes in basic English, pre-Algebra, and Civics, much of Denver needs some enrichment classes -- take people out to the City's unused Mountain Parks and walk them up and down a few hills.


Colorado does have some great parks.


I like this idea, but I have a better one in the same vein:  complete the Continental Divide Trail, the only one of the three great National Scenic Trails (the other two being the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail) incomplete and unprotected.  Colorado and the Colorado Mountain Club (as the oldest, largest hiking club in the Rockies) should be leading an urgent effort to rescue flagging attempts to do so.  In contradistinction to the Appalachian Trail Conference of hiking clubs along its length (now the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, because of their success), the CDT's sponsor is the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, an alliance of different organizations, mostly not comprised of state hiking clubc, which gets most of its funding from the Forest Service.  The completion and protection of the Continental Divide Trail should take precedence over all other trail-building, and park-designation in the Rockies.  Colorado could and should be in the vanguard of this effort.

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