The Blight Loop: Or, a ride into our mistakes.

Denverites and Coloradans are spoiled by the large amounts of bike infrastructure. While there is incredibly substantive criticism of bicycle facilities, some of which I have participated in in the past, we live in a state where natural beauty is often just an hour or two away on a well maintained path.

The Blight Loop satisfies neither of these conditions.

While not a recognized route by any major entity in Denver, the loop is well known among the cycling community. Basically, it is a loop that uses two trails and bike infrastructure in Aurora and Denver, starting roughly around Confluence Park and ending in the Central Park neighborhood.

The Blight Loop’s northernmost portion.

Various cyclists have differing opinions on where the loop begins. To me, the loop starts once you pass the Globeville Landing Park near I70. Though the trail is still technically in Denver, it feels different, as the scenery quickly shifts and the river looks less like a place for recreation and more like a superfund site. While there are a handful of parks prior to the turn, they overall aesthetic feels “off” for lack of a better term. For instance, Carpio Sanguinette, one of the northernmost parks in Denver, seems more like a parklet than a full fledged facility. The smells start to change once you get to this point, with a larger mix of pollution from the Suncor Oil refinery, a stench from the river, and, if the wind is blowing the right way, the smell of animal chow from the Purina plant.

A User Created Photo from Carpio Sanguinette from Atlas Obscura

By the time you reach the turnoff for the Sand Creek trail, you get the unnerving feeling you aren’t in Kansas anymore.

The Oz is the Suncor Oil refinery from a architecture standpoint. Comparisons stop there, as the industrial noises, smells, and sights reach a fever pitch. The creek itself is the kind of place where a three eyed fish doesn’t seem like it would be an uncommon thing

Keep peddling on.

Small parklets similar to the ones in north Denver start to emerge, feeling more like appendages than actual parks. The trees and general flora fade in and out, as scenes from a city built in industrial warehouses, Commerce City, come into frame. A trailer chapel is a prominent feature that reminds me that god is there for truckers. For me, who knows.

A Mobile Chapel at a truck stop in Commerce City

The final circle of hell is the end of the Sand Creek trail. Due to I70 construction, parts of the trail are dirt and rocks. When I was a regular on nightshift, I would ride the trail at 2:00 AM, and would say a hail Mary before this stretch. A rough patch hit at the wrong angle could make my life a nightmare. While I am not sure if this section of the Sand Creek trail has been fixed since I last rode on it, it served as a reminder that the hardest stretch of the loop was over. Once the Sand Creek Trail was over, the trail shifted back to a multi-use trail, with the old Stapleton Airport tower within a mile of the park the trail drops you off in.

The Old Stapleton Airport

So, what is the Blight Loop? On paper, its a fairly easy route. Elevation gains are minimal, distance is not a big factor, and, outside of the gravel near the end, its need technically difficult. What it is, however, is a morality tale. A ghost of Christmas Past as you pass by the unhoused who have been ignored by the city for generations, of Christmas Present once the Suncor Oil Refinery is reached, and Christmas Future when the I70 construction is hit. Far from being a physically draining route, its a mentally draining one, and a reminder of how far we have to go.

Featured Photo is of the Author in Front of the Suncor Oil Refinery, Dated June of 2020

One thought on “The Blight Loop: Or, a ride into our mistakes.

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