The Latest: Golden Applies for Rocky Flats Right of Way: City Plans Bike and Walking Trails, Improvements to Existing Roads
May 20, 2011 – The City of Golden today (May 20) officially offered to acquire a 2.76-mile stretch of right way along Indiana Street that is currently part of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The City’s offer will allow it to create what it will call the Jefferson Bikeway, as well as to provide needed roadway improvements on the Indiana Street corridor and protect the City and region from the impacts of unmitigated toll road construction.
Golden has been negotiating with the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority (JPPHA) to seek mitigation for the effects of the Jefferson Parkway impacts in exchange for dropping City opposition to the project. However, JPPHA has refused to provide any mitigation for effects on Golden and has identified no mitigation for the proposed toll road’s impacts to the Refuge.
According to Golden Mayor Jacob Smith, “It’s not clear that JPPHA has been negotiating in good faith. They are proposing a large, expensive project with a lot of impacts. Golden needs reasonable mitigation from those impacts, which JPPHA has so far been unwilling to agree to.”
Golden City Manager Mike Bestor added, “Golden undertook a significant public outreach program to solicit the input of Jefferson County residents about what guarantees Golden would need to move to a neutral position on the proposed toll road. Now, the JPPHA has indicated that it will not even consider funding to mitigate the impact of the Jefferson Parkway on Golden as part of the overall Jefferson Parkway project– a point which Golden has always included as a prerequisite for any agreement. We have concluded that Golden and the region will be better served by a forward looking use of the Refuge property rather than a development road that creates negative impacts along the Front Range.”
In a letter to the U.S. Department of Interior, which controls the property, Mr. Bestor notes that Golden’s offer “will minimize impacts on the management of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge.” In contrast to the JPPHA proposal for a toll road, Golden is proposing to use the right of way for bicycle and walking paths to connect large gaps in the regional trail system. The law creating the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge contemplated that any local government could apply for the use of an up to 300 foot right-of-way for transportation uses, so long as the use minimized effects on the Refuge. A bike and pedestrian trail would not only connect to other regional trails, it would be much less impactful than a toll road. The Jefferson Bikeway would give residents throughout the region better transportation options without disrupting the spectacular views of the mountain backdrop and unique grasslands. It would also minimize effects on threatened species and rare habitat who call the area home, and it would minimize sprawl. Preserving natural resources was the main reason for the Refuge’s creation.
The City is offering $3 million for the right-of-way, $200,000 more than the JPPHA’s offer. “This is a significant amount of money but the City Council concluded that it is worth it to help ensure that Golden can control its destiny while enhancing the region that surrounds us,” Bestor said.
Mayor Smith added: “$3 million is a fraction of the amount of money needed to mitigate the effects of the toll road on Golden. The amount of money needed to keep Golden livable, in turn, is a fraction of the amount needed to build the toll road. Golden is committed to preserving and enhancing the quality of life for those in Golden and all Front Range residents.”