Some motorized access being considered to let handicapped experience more of Red Rock

       In the 10 years since Red Rock Canyon became a city open space, it's proven a popular site for runners, hikers and cyclists, with its parking lots routinely filling up on warmer weekends.

A view up the Red Rock Canyon Trail from its fork with the handicapped-access trail shows the locked gate below the pavilion area that limits vehicular access. A problem for wheelchairs can be seen in the drainage swale in the foreground. A few other such issues also exist farther down the handicapped-access trail.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Handicapped people can access some parts of the park, if they have wheelchairs with strong enough motors or someone to push them uphill on the dirt trails.
       But those “ifs” are not small constraints, and the Friends of Red Rock Canyon and City Parks have begun exploring alternatives.
       A concept that's come forward is allowing occasional motorized access, at least as far as the central area, which includes the pavilion and two ponds along with some red rock views. The potential route is a dirt road - originally built by the Bock family that owned the property for 80-some years - that goes up from Red Rock's picnic-area parking lot.
       “It's a great idea that meets people's needs and open space needs,” summed up Karl Klepfer, president of the Friends group. “It would not have to be intrusive, and we'd like it to be aesthetically pleasing.”
       “We want to provide good access to Red Rock Canyon,” said Chris Lieber, City Parks planner. “It's a special place. We're open to the possibility, to give it a try as a pilot program, maybe a couple of times a month during the summer.”
       However, he made it clear that City Parks has no funding to pay for such a service itself.
       Also, several details need to be worked out, such as how many entities would provide the transportation (Lieber is thinking just one at first), what kinds of vehicles would be used (the consensus seems to be vans or smaller buses), what days/times they would run (probably weekdays to minimize conflicts with other park users) and how the provider(s) would coordinate with the city.
       The distance between the lot and the pavilion is about an eighth of a mile. Normally, a gate near the pavilion keeps cars out, although Parks employees open it for their service vehicles or to drive in VIPs for special events.
       The road continues past the pavilion, but that takes it into the part of the property that was bought with open-space funds, on which vehicular use is discouraged.

A problematic drainage across the Red Rock Canyon Trail that may pose a problem for wheelchairs.
Westside Pioneer photo

       In 2007, the city built a dirt trail that goes up from the picnic lot and forks into the road short of the pavilion. By switchbacking up the hill, it maintains a grade that makes it handicapped-accessible, Lieber said.
       However, maintenance is a concern, and when looked at this week, there were places on the trail that looked potentially treacherous to a wheelchair.
       To get a sense of community interest in motorized access to Red Rock, the Westside Pioneer contacted Lorri Orwig of Silver Key Senior Services. While she too noted that details need to be worked out - within the Westside-based nonprofit as well as with the city - she commented that on the whole, “this looks great and I will follow up with the city to see if we can incorporate this into our monthly recreation calendar.”
       Klepfer would like the motorized-visitor experience to be more than just sightseeing. He envisions timing such trips with presentations by volunteer specialists on the open space. People driven into the place for the first time could learn, for example, about Red Rock's prehistory (various dinosaurs), its human history (the Ute Indians, settlers' quarries and the Bocks) and how the geology of the rocks.
       A favorable return from this kind of outreach could be support for the Friends group's ongoing “save the ponds” fundraising effort, Klepfer believes. The volunteers are trying to raise more than $100,000 to provide a permanent source of water for the main pond beside the pavilion and to improve the structure and drainage capabilities of both ponds (which were also built by the Bocks).
       The strongest voice for handicapped access, dating back to the original Red Rock master-planning effort in 2004, has been wheelchair-bound Westside resident Russ Chapman. But he said in a recent interview that he's not keen on the idea of an occasional van to the pavilion. His wish was, and continues to be, for a tram that would run on a regular schedule and go even farther into the park. As he said in '04, anything less is “pure tokenism. It's not giving us the views everyone else has.”

Westside Pioneer article