Thousands of people bike, skate, run and walk along the Mary Carter Greenway Trail each week, many of them new users. That’s a lot of people wondering how far the trail goes, where it meets others trails, and where those trails go.
More than 80 new signs placed along the trail this past winter will help direct people no matter what time they’re on the popular path. South metro officials said the clean and clear signs are an upgrade to the popular amenity that was long overdue.
“We were having people ask a lot of questions, how to get places from the area. It’s really about improving wayfinding and information for residents and visitors,” Littleton deputy city manager Mike Braaten said. “We wanted to freshen up the look of the signage down there and create a little more uniformity.”
The new signs — 87 in total — run along the Mary Carter trail from C-470 north to Belleview Avenue. The sign system cost $256,673 to design, create and install, Braaten said. The project, which began in 2015, was a joint effort by city of Littleton and South Suburban Parks and Recreation District, which maintains part of the trail and manages South Platte Park and the Carson Nature Center, 3000 W. Carson Drive. The city chipped in $131,673 and South Suburban, $75,000, Braaten said. A $50,000 grant from Arapahoe County Open Spaces made up the rest.
Littleton officials estimate the Mary Carter trail welcomes more than 580,000 visitors annually. Braaten said that over the past 30 years, a variety of signs in various styles had accumulated along the path. The replacement project reduced the total number of signs in the area by 40 percent, he said.
The adaptable, update-able signs (important in an area that continues to add parks) feature steel posts and aluminum panels with graffiti-resistant, vinyl coating. It’s estimated they’ll last roughly 20 years but they could last longer, Braaten said.
South Platte parks manager Skot Latona believes the signs have been well-received by trail users, judging by how many people take selfies with the marker outside his office at the Carson Nature Center.
Those unfamiliar with the region easily can be confused while using the trail because it intersects with numerous other paths, including the Lee Gulch and Bear Creek trails, and in some stretches runs on both sides of the South Platte River.
Now, the trail signs are color-coded: The Mary Carter Greenway Trail is flanked by blue-capped markers; the Big Dry Creek Trail, green-capped markers; the Mineral Avenue Trail, purple-capped markers. Color-coding the paths makes the trail system easier to navigate, Latona said. The signs also show how far trail users are from services like restrooms, water fountains and parking.
“For the most part, people are very thankful and impressed,” Latona said. “It’s been needed for a long time and they look good.”
One criticism Latona has heard is that the bold colors look unnatural along the woody river bank. Not everyone shares that view.
Candice Craig, who walked the trail with her two sons and family friends last week, said she thinks the signs are spread out enough so as not to overpower the scenery while being frequent enough to be helpful.
“I think they look nice. They stand out enough to help aid you directionally,” Craig said. “I think that shows they took the time to put effort into it to make the trails user-friendly.”
Eleven-year-old Lex Squire enjoyed a 28-mile bike ride along the Mary Carter with other kids in his summer camp last week. A previous visitor to trail, Lex said he liked the color coding and the distance measurements.
“I’d say they’re very useful,” he said. “And I think they look very interesting. I really like the look.”