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Black Hawk builds on popular recreation trail system

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Gregory Street Plaza grand opening planned for 2022 with classic vehicle show

By Don Ireland

  How does a hiker climb a mountain?  That’s easy: One step at a time. That same strategy is being used by the Black Hawk City Council, which last week advanced several steps toward its goal of creating a series of hiking and mountain biking trails around the city.

Council approved spending up to $90,000 to purchase five parcels, containing 4.76 acres, of a former mining property owned by Bonanza Land LLC. The land-sale agreement is for $77,000 while the remainder will be used for a survey of the property and related legal costs. Mayor David Spellman said some of the Bonanza Land property is in both Black Hawk and Central City on Bates Hill. Black Hawk will have the survey conducted because the city is primarily interested in the parcels within its boundaries to develop its outdoor recreation plans.

Black Hawk’s ongoing renaissance project envisions a 700-acre hiking and mountain biking trail system that will ultimately include property north of the downtown casino district and extend downhill to Gregory Street. It will eventually be on the south side of Gregory Street and extend uphill to the new, forthcoming Artisans’ Point beverage district – planned for Gregory Hill. Trailheads and parking lots for hikers’ cars are included in the comprehensive plan.

 In June, Council approved spending up to $275,000 for Black Hawk to acquire more than 30 acres on both sides of Gregory Street. The parcels were purchased from 101 Horn Inc. and the Kathryn L. Lorenz Revocable Trust for a total of $250,000. The city approval also included spending up to $25,000 for closing costs related to the purchase.

In a related move last week, Mayor Spellman and the Alderman approved a memorandum of understanding with the Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA). The 1,800-member mountain biking group, based in Lakewood, will work with the city to help design, construct and maintain up to 12 miles of multi-use, non-motorized trails managed by the City of Black Hawk.

On its website, COMBA said the Black Hawk trail system, which is in the Maryland Mountain Quartz Valley area, will offer trails for a variety of skills – easy to difficult – for hikers, runners and those who enjoying mountain biking. The top of the trail system reaches an elevation of 9,200 feet. At its website, www.comba.org, the organization reports it has participated in the development of more than 400 miles of trails in Colorado.

“COMBA believes outdoor recreation is vital to improving the health, environment and economy of our state. We are committed to being an advocacy voice for mountain bikers, maintaining and building natural surface trails, teaching proper trail use to cyclists, and collaborating with land managers to protect the landscapes where we love to play,” according to the website.

Last September, the city had a soft opening for it’s Hidden Treasure Trailhead along Highway 119, north of downtown Black Hawk, a site that features dozens of parking spaces and restrooms. During recent weekends, the parking lot was filled completely, resulting in outdoor enthusiasts parking in a nearby and unpaved secondary lot. Part of the developing trail system once was the location of the Gilpin Tramway, a former small-gauge rail system that carried materials during the gold-mining era more than a century ago.

Gregory Plaza “official opening” planned for 2022

  Mayor Spellman announced the ribbon-cutting and grand-opening celebration planned for the Gregory Street History Appreciation Recreation District (HARD) will take place next spring instead of this summer. The majority of work on the Gregory Plaza area is completed. Pedestrian access is available after construction fences were removed in recent weeks.

However, according to the mayor, Black Hawk wants time to organize a special event in conjunction with the official opening. He said officials are discussing the possibilities of a classic car show or vintage motorcycle event to coincide with the grand-opening dedication in 2022.

A volunteer fire-fighting museum, renovated Rocky Mountain Free Evangelical Church, and several restored historic homes – slated for retail space – are part of the plaza. The featured item on the scenic, landscaped plaza is the Founders’ Clock, which pays tribute to Black Hawk’s founding. Three of the four clock faces bear historic names: William L. Lee, Dr. Frederick H. Judd, and Milo Lee. The three were principals of the Black Hawk Gold Mining Company – the name on the fourth clock face. Judd and the Lees, who had the same surname but weren’t related, moved from Rock Island, Illinois to the hills west of Denver. The three helped to officially incorporate the city in 1864, more than a decade before Colorado became a state. Several historic markers along Gregory Plaza offer insights into the city’s rich, historic past.

The HARD acronym is a play on the hard-rock mining that occurred in the area during the Colorado gold rush – an era that lured thousands from the East to seek a fortune locally during the mining heyday 160 years ago. The HARD district of Black Hawk begins around the former Crook’s Palace Saloon and restaurant and stretches west uphill to Gregory Point, a group of small, Victorian-style homes formerly called Mountain City. Although designed to look historic, Gregory Plaza offers a few modern conveniences. They include several restrooms, free wi-fi, and a unique sound system (speakers are hidden in decorative street-lighting poles) that can be used for announcements and playing music throughout the site.

Historic Preservation Appointments

  Council reappointed residents Lynnette Hailey, Tonya Cadena-Barnett, and Karen Midcap to four-year terms on the City of Black Hawk’s Historic Preservation Commission. The three are part of a five-member commission. Ms. Hailey, the commission chairman, has served on the organization since 2015. Ms. Cadena-Barnett was appointed last year, and Ms. Midcap joined the committee in 2021, filling a vacant seat.

Saying “thank you”

  Marchant Street resident Sean Conway was invited to ring the church bell at the council chambers, which announces the beginning of each council session. In his address to the Aldermen and Mayor, Conway thanked the officials for continuing a painting-grant program, which offers free exterior painting to historic homes in the community. Conway was the recipient of one of the painting projects.

“I wanted to thank you for the grant program,” Conway said. “Your staff was incredible. As a former public official, I know how difficult it can be. All of you have done a great job. I think it is important to thank you for your public service.”

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