The Grand County Council met to discuss maintenance for paved bicycle and pedestrian pathways during a special workshop held Tuesday, Oct. 29.
Council administrator Ruth Dillon estimated that maintenance costs could average $80,000 per year for the next three years for the paved bicycle pathways north of Moab.
“We have $20 million in assets to maintain,” said council administrator Ruth Dillon.
The North Moab Recreation Transportation System will be a $20 million project once the elevated pathway along State Route 128 and the transit hub at the junction of Hwy 191 and State Route 128 are completed later this month. The North Moab Recreation Transportation System also includes a bicycle / pedestrian bridge crossing the Colorado River and the Moab Canyon Pathway that has 10.5 miles of paved path that connects Moab to State Route 313.
“We all understand we have maintenance. What we’re trying to do is figure out how to pay for it,” said Grand County councilman Lynn Jackson
Most of the pathway was paid for by federal grants. Some of it was incorporated into the Utah Department of Transportation plan. Some of it came as a match from Grand County and the City of Moab for grants received.
The written responsibility of trail development and maintenance lies with the Grand County Trail Mix, which is an advisory committee to the Grand County Council. It is comprised of volunteers and part-time trail developers.
Trail Mix receives $10,000 through Tourism, Recreation, Culture and Convention Facilities tax (also known as the restaurant tax) from Grand County each year.
“We often apply for Utah State grants via Federal Recreational Trails Program, and we receive some funding from private contributions,” said Sandy Freethey, the Trail Mix chair.
The total budget averages around $50,000 a year. Of that, $7500 is budgeted for trail maintenance.
“Volunteer participation is the only way Trail Mix has been able to build and maintain more than 80 miles of dirt mountain bike trails in four years with this tiny budget,” said Trail Mix treasurer Sharon Hogan. “I estimate there are currently 6000 volunteer hours/year spent on trail development and maintenance.”
Freethey said that as the paved trails were added, Trail Mix took on some of the maintenance that goes with paved trails, such as mowing, weeding and minor repairs.
“After about six years of service to the paved paths, the mileage and needs have outgrown our volunteer availability and ability,” Freethey said.
Grand County roads supervisor, Bill Jackson said that the Moab Canyon Pathway needs to be treated with a sealant, which is estimated to cost $80,300 alone.
“In the window of about four or five years, you seal-coat it to preserve it,” Bill Jackson said. “It’s been more than six. The oldest part of the trail is seven years old.”
The Moab Canyon Pathway, which begins on the north side of the Colorado River pedestrian bridge, allows bicyclists and pedestrians to access Arches National Park and several mountain biking trails north of Moab. It also allows cyclists to reach State Route 313 without ever having to cross traffic with cars. State Route 313 leads to Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.
“The paved paths, as well as the dirt trails, are a great asset to our community and are one piece of the recreation pie that helps with the economic development of Moab,” Freethey said.
“We have well over $100,000 invested for 2014,” said council chair Gene Ciarus. “We have it covered for next year.”
The monies for 2014 maintenance comes through Transient Room Tax, the restaurant tax and monies that are given from the county’s transportation and recreation special service districts.
Lynn Jackson was concerned, however, that the monies from these taxes and entities won’t be enough and that future equipment and capital may take from the county’s general fund.
“I don’t think it is the ultimate solution,” Lynn Jackson said. “We may need to consider fees.”