A 155-foot-long bridge will soon open up a much broader world to hikers, bikers and others looking to enjoy the expansive open space area on the west side of Castle
Work is underway on the Wolfensberger Pedestrian Bridge, town officials say.
The structure, being built over Wolfensberger Road just south of the intersection with West Plum Creek Parkway, will eventually connect two of the town's recreational crown jewels: Philip S. Miller Park and the Ridgeline Open Space.
The end result will be 650 acres of interconnected open space and a continuous, 17-mile loop trail that can be followed without ever getting in a car.
"One of the things we keep hearing from residents is they want more recreational facilities," said Jennifer Green, Castle Rock mayor pro tem. "It's been a priority of the town to connect these trails together, and this bridge is an important component of that."
Work got underway on the support structure for the bridge in early December, Castle Rock trails planner Rich Havel said. Cold weather has slowed progress, but the town expected the bridge to open in spring, Havel said. The final phase will be placement of the weathered steel bridge itself, which has already been constructed and is waiting at a manufacturer's facility, Havel said.
The total cost of the project is just over $702,000, a majority of which was drawn from Castle Rock's 2015 $500,000 trails construction account, Havel said. The rest was drawn from funds left over from 2014 trails projects. National Covenant Properties, which has been approved to develop 58 residential lots in the area, donated 2 acres of land to the project, officials say.
Havel said one of the town's chief goals is to improve safety by allowing people to avoid riding on or crossing streets. In addition, by connecting the two open space areas, the bridge may also open the area up to host races and other public events.
"Right now, if we have any race events they stage at Bison Park," Havel said. "Now, with the bridge in place we are going to be able to pull those events off to Philip S. Miller Park. There is just more room."
Green represents Castle Rock's growing Meadows neighborhoodon the northwest side of town, and said she is sure many of her neighbors will be thrilled to have a continuous trail that can access Philip S. Miller Park, whether they be on foot, bike or snowshoe.
The town is also in the process of adding a second phase of amenities at the park, among them a public amphitheater that may also attract Meadows residents on summer evenings.
"We have a pretty active, outdoor-centric community with lots of young and growing families," Green said. "This is going to be a great addition for the Meadows."
Members of the local cycling community are also celebrating the project. Matt Rettmer is vice president of 6202 Cycling Club, a road and mountain biking group of around 100 members named for Castle Rock's elevation. The first benefit Rettmer mentioned was safety. He said regular trail users were already moving back and forth between Philip S. Miller and Ridgeline, but that required crossing the increasingly busy Wolfensberger Road, which was especially challenging for dog owners or those walking or biking with children.
He says the project will provide mountain bikers in particular with easily accessible riding options, whether it be the steeper, hilly terrain in Philip S. Miller, or the more flowing trails on the "hidden gem" Ridgeline trails. He hopes — and town officials have indicated they are considering options — that more trails and bike lanes will be added around Castle Rock, eventually connecting the Meadows to downtown and everything in between.
"I think as the town grows we really need to push and advocate to the city planners that this infrastructure needs to be built now, because 20 years from now it's going to be too expensive," Rettmer said. "Now is the perfect time."