The Poudre River Trail moved one step closer to completion Dec. 17, when the Larimer County Open Lands program acquired a quarter-mile trail easement on the Swets property, the home of the Swetsville Zoo attraction.

This easement is a critical connection for completing the trail, which has been a community vision for nearly four decades. This portion of the project will connect future sections of the trail with the town of Timnath’s recently built “Gateway Trail,” soon to be accompanied by a trailhead, on the north side of Harmony Road.

“Even though this is a small section of trail, it’s a big step forward for the Poudre River Trail. This connection sets the stage for future connections and brings the trail beyond Harmony Road,” said County Commissioner Tom Donnelly, liaison to the Natural Resources Open Lands Advisory Board.

Funding for the acquisition came from the citizen initiated 1/4-cent Help Preserve Open Spaces sales tax which benefits Larimer County as well as its incorporated cities and towns to provide funds for land conservation and recreation areas throughout the county, and a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado. Great Outdoors Colorado invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces.

The Poudre River trail has been in the works since the late 1970s, when communities in Larimer and Weld Counties began envisioning a recreation corridor along the Cache la Poudre River. Today the trail is nearly complete, with an approximately 6-mile gap between Colorado State University’s Environmental Learning Center and River Bluffs Open Space in Windsor. Partners, Fort Collins, Timnath, Windsor, Greeley, and Larimer County are coordinating to secure funding and complete the regional trail. A successful 2012 Great Outdoors Colorado Grant of $5.1 million provides funds to acquire additional open space and trail easements along the river corridor and construct additional amenities. Once complete the Poudre River Trail will provide a 44-mile paved route between Bellvue north of Fort Collins to Greeley’s Island Grove Park. It is anticipated the trail will be complete in 2016.

Larimer County Natural Resources works with willing landowners to further the conservation and recreation interests of the citizens who dedicated funds for the Open Lands program through the 1995 Help Preserve Open Spaces sales tax.

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