A group of state and local stakeholders with vested interest in the upper Arkansas River watershed met at Hayden Meadows last week for a walking tour of the recreation area. Mike Conlin, facilitator of Lake County Open Space Initiative, led the tour and presented on future plans for Hayden Meadows.
As part of the walkthrough, participants, including representatives of Leadville/Lake County Fire-Rescue, the Board of County Commissioners, the Bureau of Land Management and the cities of Aurora and Pueblo, saw the proposed site for a new environmental learning center next to the Hayden Meadows Reservoir.
Originally identified as a potential asset in a 1998 Lake County master plan, the environmental learning center will serve both recreational and educational roles. Conlin said the facility, which would be surrounded by various riparian and wetland habitats, could be a resource for school outings, fishing trips and research projects.
The proposed location for the environmental learning center would require an extension of the existing Hayden Meadows driveway to the east side of the reservoir. Concept drawings for the building show an observation deck that overlooks the reservoir, an enclosed classroom space off the deck and a covered picnic area beneath the classroom space. Conlin said the center is also in a prime location to run on a hydroelectric energy system, with the passing river behind the proposed location.
“We are designing the space to accommodate all walks of life,” said Conlin. “This is intended to be a space where people can interpret all the amazing things that are happening in habitats around Hayden Meadows.”
Conlin added that recreators typically stay near the reservoir when visiting Hayden Meadows. The environmental learning center, he said, would activate the Sawatch Range Interpretive Trail and other trail systems on the northeast side of the reservoir where bridges and decks have been built for nature observation.
Currently, the project is not slated for construction for at least another two years, according to Conlin. This fall, a committee of regional stakeholders will work with a group of graduate students at the University of Colorado Denver to draw architectural plans for the environmental learning center. From there, costs for the facility will be determined and the Lake County Open Space Initiative, among other groups, can begin lobbying for project funding.
Learning center aside, Conlin received approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation last week to begin coordinating the construction of a new stretch of trail at Hayden Meadows. The 1,600-foot trail begins near the Hayden Meadows parking lot and continues beneath the U.S. 24 overpass to the west side of the highway. From there, the trail will connect with County Road 130 and a series of U.S. Forest Service trails that lead to Turquoise Lake and Leadville.
Project engineer Roger Mutz said most of the trail, which partially follows the old line of the Colorado Midland Railway, will be easy to construct, except for where the trail passes beneath the highway overpass. There, a culvert and gabion wall will need to be installed.
Several local organizations, including Freeport-McMoRan, the owner of Climax Molybdenum, and Cloud City Wheelers have expressed interest in volunteering to build the trail. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Forest Service will also provide equipment and hand tools for the project.
With several new projects underway, Conlin said he is excited about the future potential of Hayden Meadows as both a place for learning about and appreciating nature.