First part of Leadville Mineral Belt Trail opens

Brief by Sharon Chickering

Recreation – October 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

Cyclists, joggers and in-line skaters in Lake County can now use a paved recreation path without fear of being run down by passing motorists. The first three and one half mile segment of the Mineral Belt Trail was recently blacktopped by county crews and is open for use.

The completed section of the twelve-foot-wide multi-use trail begins from U.S. Highway 24 just south of College Road and the Sanitation District office, passes between replicated Oro City mining camp structures, and up past sagebrush and small aspen groves in Pawnee Gulch. Where the trail makes a sweeping turn to head up out of the Gulch, remnants of a dump litter the ground — thick pieces of blue, brown and green glass from old bottles as well as pieces of white ceramic dishes.

Open areas offer panoramic views including an almost 360° sweep of the Sawatch and Mosquito Ranges. Only the Collegiate Peaks are obscured by trees.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Funds are already on hand for work to continue next summer. Although the course is still being negotiated, when completed the trail should circle Leadville, providing several access points for those wishing to experience the whole trail, or just a part.

The Mineral Belt Trail will allow access to Leadville’s old mining district — an important look at the community’s legacy not possible before because of safety risks. To that end, the Colorado Division of Minerals and Geology is in the process of plugging old mine shafts. To aid in historic interpretation, the first three feet or so of some shafts are being left exposed and is hoped interpretive signs with historic photos will be placed in appropriate locations.

In addition, the EPA will need to verify that there are no environmental health hazards from using the area.

Jeff Jackal, Lake County Parks and Recreation Director, is enthusiastic about trail potential and hopes to see it completed by the year 2000: “Once our trail is done, I think we’ll get a good share of the bikers who now ride the Summit County trail. We won’t have the traffic and noise from Interstate 70. Aesthetically we have a much prettier setting.”

–Sharon K. Chickering