From varied trails and gorgeous views to easy access to downtown Golden, South Table Mountain has always had a lot to offer to hikers and bikers. But if there is one thing the trail currently lacks, …
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Parcel 1: 157.95 acres/$620,000
Parcel 2 and 3: 5.81 acres/$2,278,614
Parcel 6: 0.79 acres/326,000
Trail easement: 1.76 acres/$6,886
Total: 166.31 acres/$3,231,500
Parcel 5: 9.27 acres/$3,321,500
Total: 9.27 acres/$3,231,500
From varied trails and gorgeous views to easy access to downtown Golden, South Table Mountain has always had a lot to offer to hikers and bikers. But if there is one thing the trail currently lacks, it’s a main trailhead that can serve as a central access point for the droves of people who come to the mesa from all over the metro area.
Hillary Merritt, the Deputy Director of Jefferson County Open Space, said that agency has spent the last 20 or so years to identify a possible location for such a trailhead without much success.
“We just haven’t been able to come up with a good solution because South Table Mountain Park is surrounded by residences about 280 degrees,” she said.
That situation that has left several of those neighborhoods bombarded with the cars and traffic that result from people coming to access the existing trailheads that are not designed for that level of use.
But change could soon be on the horizon as JCOS held a virtual community meeting on April 8, at which it unveiled a proposal that would involve acquiring a property on the National Renewable Energy Lab campus on which it is proposing to build a new regional trailhead along Denver West Parkway with a parking lot for 100 cars.
From the trailhead, recreators would be able to hike on a realigned Cretaceous Trail as well as a new trail called the T-Rex Trail that would connect to trails on the west side of the mesa.
However, the proposal has a catch. In order to acquire the property for the trailhead and parking lot, JCOS would participate in a larger land exchange with NREL in which NREL would receive a 9.27 acre section of the 38-acre Pleasant View Community Park at Camp George West.
Merritt said NREL would look to use that property for “some kind of building where NREL could house operations for some of its partners” that are able to be located outside of the secure NREL campus.
If that plan were to proceed, the area around the park would be redesigned to allow access to both the new building and rest of the park from Research Road, which is currently separated from the park by security fencing.
“We would also look to do a new master plan for the Pleasant View Community Park to see what are some of the trails that we could put back that would be taken away by the land exchange and any other amenities that we might be able to put back in the park,” she said.
However, the two properties aren’t the only ones that would be included in the proposed exchange.
JCOS would also receive the 157-acre parcel that is the location of the Cretaceous Trail and Basalt Cap Loop trail (the county currently has a trails easement for that property), a 2.38-acre parcel to the north of the proposed regional trailhead and a 0.79 acre parcel at the intersection of South Golden Road and Research Road. That last parcel would likely be used for other development, not open space.
According to Meritt, one of the advantages of being able to develop a regional trailhead through the exchange is that it would provide a location for the county to try to direct visiting hikers.
“I think what we would look is trying to coordinate with internet providers like Google Maps to direct people there,” she said. “There might also be an opportunity for us to do additional signage potentially off of I-70 to direct people to the Denver West trailhead for South Table Mountain Park.”
Although the meeting was the first chance for residents to hear about the proposal, it was already generating some strong reactions from some residents.
Laura Cardon said the proposal “did not seem like a good solution for the neighborhood.”
There’s very little upside and a loss of part of a park, a paved path where there’s currently a nice trail (without any genuine bike-friendly connection to downtown Golden), and far more car traffic expected,” she wrote in a comment. “If Castle Rock was involved or there was an actual protected bikeable connection to downtown Golden, that would be much more reasonable.”
Sam Resee voiced a similar opinion.
“Why would Jeffco open space give up precision space available to us? Does pleasant view parks get a say?,” Reese said. “What would need to happen for giving the space to NREL not to happen?”
Jefferson County Open Space will be accepting comments on the proposal via email at STM@jeffco.us through May 12.
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