New Reservoir Ridge trail on track despite rough patches

Fort Collins is forging ahead with construction of a new trail to the Reservoir Ridge Natural Area southwest of LaPorte despite lingering concerns by neighboring homeowners about increased traffic, inadequate parking and privy odors.

“We’ve written to the county and been effectively been sloughed off,” said Bill Sullivan, a member of the homeowners association serving the Poudre Overlook subdivision directly east of the trailhead across Overland Trail.

“They don’t care what we think,” continued Sullivan, stressing that he was speaking for himself only and not for the HOA.

In “typical county rigmarole,” Sullivan said Larimer County staff maintained that they had little oversight over the project as the trail was being constructed by the city of Fort Collins on its own property.

While the city conducted a pair of neighborhood meetings last summer, Sullivan said they were to present the plan rather than solicit public input. “It was a slam dunk,” he said.

But Karen Manci, senior environmental planner for the Fort Collins Natural Resources department, said that the city listened to those concerns and has addressed most of them in a revised plan for the trailhead that includes a parking lot, vault toilet and picnic table.

She said the site plan should be submitted to county planners for review in March. That review will be an administrative one to determine whether the city proposal complies with the county land-use code, according to Larimer County Planner Samantha Mott.

Although no public input will be taken, she said the proposal will be referred to other appropriate internal and external agencies. Modifications could be required based on their comments.

In the case of the Reservoir Ridge trail, Mott said the city is objecting to a requirement that it pave the parking area and access to it from Overland Trail. That mandate can be waived only through an appeal to county commissioners.

Possible nesting delays
Trail construction could begin in early summer, according to Manci. It could, however, be delayed should a pair of Swainson’s hawks again establish a nest in the area.

Manci said the hawks are not especially committed to one nesting site and they build flimsy nests. The last one blew down in early fall, but she said the hawks still may return to build a new one in the same tree. If so, she said construction could be postponed until later in the summer.

The 1.4-mile trail will originate on Overland Trail and traverse the 158-acre former Andrijeski property acquired by Fort Collins as open space in 2004. It offers another access to Reservoir Ridge in addition to the existing trailhead on Michaud Lane.

The Overland trailhead will include an 11-space parking lot, a bus and horse-trailer parking area, outhouse, and picnic table. The toilet, she said, will be emptied daily, additional picnic tables could be added later, and the parking area could be readily doubled in size if demand dictates.

“We for sure don’t want people parking in the neigborhood or along Overland Trail,” she said, echoing perhaps the biggest concern raised by the Poudre Overlook homeowners.

A solar-powered gate would close access to the site at night.

Originally proposed to begin in the summer of 2011, Manci said work was postponed to tweak the design to address some of the neighbors’ objections. She said planners believe they have reduced visibility of the parking lot by allowing for greater screening without making it much more vulnerable to vandalism.

“We’re trying to balance that,” she said. “I think it’s a good compromise.”

She said the new plan also provides a buffer zone for the Swainson’s hawks should the raptors return to nest.

Despite any concerns raised, Manci said most nearby residents are supportive of the trail and are eager for its completion.

Poudre Overlook’s Sullivan agreed.

“We like the idea of the trail. I don’t know anybody who’s against it,” he said. “It’s more an issue of how you go about it.”

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