Interior Department, Colorado Officials Sign Agreement For "Rocky Mountain Greenway Project"

Imagine a sprawling "great urban park," stretching roughly 65 miles from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park and tying together national wildlife refuges and the Mile High City's trail systems.

It could become a reality under an agreement signed between Interior Department and Colorado officials. The vision, as outlined Friday during a ceremony where Interior Secretary Ken Salzar and Governor John Hickenlooper formalized the plan, is to create a sustainble corridor that would link metro Denver to the great outdoors.

You can view a map of the proposed linkage at this site.

Under the agreement, a 10-person steering committee will be formed to implement the Rocky Mountain Greenway Project -– a federal, state, local and stakeholder partnership to create uninterrupted trails/transportation linkages connecting the Denver metro area’s trail systems, the three National Wildlife Refuges in the metro region, Rocky Mountain National Park, and community trails systems in between.

“The Denver and Front Range metropolitan area is already rich with a strong system of trails, parks and open spaces – but we can do more. If we think beyond our fences, leverage our resources and align our visions, we can make this America’s next great urban park,” Secretary Salazar said in a prepared statement.

“Today’s agreement on the Rocky Mountain Greenway Project is significant because it means that there is a sustainable structure to turn this vision into reality. (U.S.) Senators (Mark) Udall and (Michael) Bennet, and Congressman (Ed) Perlmutter and Congresswoman (Diana) DeGette have been great champions of conservation and recreation in the Denver metropolitan area and their support of this great urban park will be key to its success.”

Gov. Hickenlooper called the project "a model of state and federal collaboration." Once completed, he said, the greenway will "connect a national park, regional open space, city trails and wildlife habitat into one continuous corridor."

“This is what the America’s Great Outdoor initiative is all about—connecting communities to the open spaces and the natural wonders they contain while enhancing recreational opportunities and amenities," the governor said, referring to President Obama's initiative to get Americans reacquainted with the outdoors.

“Outdoor recreation is a tremendous boost to the state, contributing over $10 billion a year to our economy, supporting over 100,000 Colorado jobs and generating $500 million in state tax revenue,” noted Senator Udall.

A year ago Gov. Hickenlooper and Secretary Salazar announced the Rocky Mountain Greenway Project as one of three conservation initiatives in Colorado as part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a nationwide effort to encourage and support community-driven conservation and recreation projects around the country.

As envisioned, the Rocky Mountain Greenway will connect the following areas to serve the over 3 million resident of the Front Range area and the millions of visitors that come to Colorado every year:

* The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, which comprises 27 square miles between the Denver International Area and downtown Denver and is one of the largest urban national wildlife refuges in the nation;

* The Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, Colorado;

* The 6,200-acre Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains;

* Rocky Mountain National Park, which is the sixth-most visited park in the nation with over 3.1 million visitors per year; and

* The hundreds of miles of trails, parks, and open spaces along the South Platte River and its tributaries throughout the Denver/Front Range metropolitan area.

The general agreement signed Friday memorializes a partnership between the Secretary of the Interior and Governor of Colorado to promote and establish the Rocky Mountain Greenway.

The 10-person steering committee will be composed of one representative for the governor, one representative for the secretary, and four representatives of Denver/Front Range metropolitan area local governments (two county government and two city government representatives), and four representatives of local government-private sector area partnerships and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaged in the development of parks, open spaces, wildlife areas, river corridors, and trails systems.

The steering committee will be expected to submit a report on the initiative to the secretary and the governor by the end of each calendar year.