I have had the pleasure of being a member of the Evergreen Downtown Business Association as long as EVstudio has been in Downtown Evergreen, and I am currently on a special committee specifically organized for community revitalization. The committee is the “Heart of Evergreen Revitalization Organization”, or H.E.R.O. for short. We’ve only recently formed, and the positive response to our goals has already been overwhelming.
The newly defined mission of HERO is as follows: “To keep the Heart of Evergreen pumping by maintaining and improving the character of the downtown environment.”
In addition to a long list of ideas for how to make Downtown Evergreen a better, nicer and safer place to be, we have also identified the many organizations who have a vested interest in downtown that we plan to work with and develop strong long term relationships with. One of those organizations is Jefferson County Open Space. Within hours of our first meeting, it was revealed that Jeffco Open Space already has a master plan for a trail linkage through Downtown Evergreen, to support their larger network of open space trails.
Also known as the “Bear Creek Greenway and Trail”, the plan calls for a public trail along Bear Creek through downtown, and it is surprisingly unknown to local residents and business owners. However, with only a minor briefing at the recent EDBA meeting, has already received a tremendous amount of support. Below is a thumbnail image of the plan that outlines the trail through 5 identified town zones, and links Evergreen lake on the West side to the Open Space network of trails on the East end. The full .PDF version is available for download at the following link: Bear Creek Greenway & Trail Map.
Amy Ito, with Jeffco Open Space has been working on this project for a number years and had updated the plan as recently as 2008. She mentioned that it already has the support of the Open Space Advisory Committee to be funded provided that they have the cooperation of all of the property owners that are affected by the project. It is an important project for Jeffco Open Space to link their network of trails. It is also an important project for downtown Evergreen to create this link. A .PDF for the full Master Plan is available at the following link (be patient – it’s 16 megs): Bear Creek Greenway & Trail Master Plan.
Getting community support for a riverwalk project is the easy part, however, projects such as this require individual property owners to agree to grant easements across their properties. The easements themselves are typically already outside building setback lines and also within the floodplain, so there is little concern of the trail easements hindering future development rights. Be that as it may, it is a process that requires a fair amount of cooperation by all parties and takes time to realize.
The focus of HERO includes the task of fostering a unified voice for downtown Evergreen and being the hub that connects all of the interested parties for projects just like this. As a result, we are now researching the history of the development of this master plan, and all of the interested parties, so we can better understand what needs to happen next to realize this vision.
There is a large body of research done on the economics of how similar river walk projects in mountain communities have significantly improved their local economies. Improving local economy directly translates to improved property values, and therefore is a compelling reason for a property owner to participate in the project. In addition, there are also possible tax advantages to granting a conservation easement that would need to be researched to determine their relevance for this kind of project. H.E.R.O. will be seeking the counsel of the local Mountain Area Land Trust to pull that information together to present to the community in order to help everyone make the best decisions for their interests.
We have only just begun our efforts and there is likely a long road ahead, but it is our sincere hope that we can get everyone from residents to business owners to propety owners to work together on this project to create a wonderful experience in downtown Evergreen for generations to come. Please comment on this post to show your support for this project.