Greenway users give trail high marks

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People who use the Mary Carter Greenway trail love it and generally like each other, a new study shows.

“People are pretty happy with what’s happening out there,” said Josh Mehlem, a senior designer with Alta Planning and Design, especially with its natural beauty, good maintenance, safety and access to the larger network of trails.

The city of Littleton and South Suburban Parks and Recreation paid Alta about $45,000 to study the safety of the trail, which gets more than a million visits each year. Alta surveyed almost 200 trail users, most of whom visit four or more times a week, and found that 93 percent rate their experiences as good or excellent, and 73 percent are happy with the etiquette displayed on the trail.

“That’s a pretty high satisfaction rate,” said SSPR board member John Ostermiller during a joint meeting with Littleton City Council Oct. 22. “The other 7 percent, I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to convince them.”

The two entities launched a “Be Cool: Share the Path” campaign last spring to remind people on the trail to look out for each other. In June, the city held an awareness event, handing out bells, dog leashes and other goodies.

“We want to create an environment that’s a little bit more friendly,” said Littleton Mayor Debbie Brinkman.

The top three concerns people reported were bicyclists going too fast, people with headphones who can’t hear when someone is coming up behind them, and people walking dogs with either no leash or a leash that’s too long.

“We already have laws against retractable leashes,” noted Councilor Jim Taylor. “We need to have a big campaign on how to retrain humans about those.”

The most common improvements trail users wish for are more way-finding signs, a wider path and enforcement of the 15 mph speed limit.

“I don’t think this campaign is going to be one they will really, frankly, care about without some kind of enforcement piece,” said Sue Rosser, SSPR board member.

The city began ticketing speeding bicyclists after a cyclist died in a head-on collision on the trail in 2003. The managing agencies also painted a centerline, built a separate crusher-fine path for pedestrians and installed bicycle roundabouts at problem points.

Dave Lorenz, SSPR executive director, said there will be more park rangers in South Platte Park next summer to ramp up enforcement. Littleton City Manager Michael Penny added that by spring, the city will have a mobile application residents can use to report a variety of things instantaneously, including hazards on the trail.

Alta recommends continuing the education campaign, improving some access points and monitoring speeds to prioritize future improvement projects.