Glenwood Springs municipal engineer designs infrastructure with recreation in mind


City of Glenwood Springs engineer Terri Partch hikes along the trail system under Red Mountain before knee replacement surgery she hopes will get her back to running. Ike Fredregill
Independent post

A dedicated public servant, outdoor enthusiast, and engineer, Terri Partch has developed urban infrastructure across the West for over 30 years, but Colorado’s Rocky Mountains have always been her home.

“As an engineer, especially in small towns, it’s amazing that you can make changes that benefit the public in their daily lives,” said Parch, the City of Glenwood Springs engineer.

After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1990, Partch’s first job was for the city of San Diego, California, designing drainage systems. She eventually returned to Colorado, where she met her husband during an avalanche safety course.

The couple, both engineers, expanded their family by jumping from mountain town to mountain town.

“We lived in Telluride, Vail, and Silverthorne, but ended up moving to Port Angeles, Washington, about 60 miles west of Seattle,” she said. “After a long time, however, we missed the sun and the mountains, so we moved back to Glenwood Springs in 2012.”

“Pure determination”

Passionate about her work, Partch has impressed with her determination and dedication to projects that she believes would benefit residents the most.

“I first met her during the budgeting process, and she was not yet a department head,” said city manager Debra Figueroa, adding with a chuckle. “She walked into my office with her budget with $ 17 million worth of projects for a $ 2 million fund, looked at me and said, ‘How are we going to do this?’

From the start, Parch saw the potential of the South Bridge project as one of the most significant achievements of his career.

“South Bridge has always been a response to the 2002 Coal Seam fire,” Partch said. “We say that, but I didn’t think much about it until I had to model evacuation plans for South Glenwood as part of a federal grant application. The planning process really conveyed the importance of a southern escape route.

When replacing the Grand Avenue Bridge, Figueroa said Partch oversaw the longest sustained detour in U.S. history.

“With her determination, Terri prepared the city as much as she could,” Figueroa said. “She went meeting after meeting, working in partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation, fire and law enforcement, to prepare parents, ensure children can walk to school and secure a safe. adequate parking in Rifle. “

While replacing the bridge was still a difficult project for the entire valley, Partch worked tirelessly to make sure the children were safe and that the detour was as good as it could get, Figueroa said.

Assistant City Engineer Jessica Bowser worked with Partch for six years and said she learned a lot from the experience.

“Terri has always been very direct about what she expects from someone, and she has an open door policy, which makes it easy to approach her about challenges at work,” Bowser said.

An avid hiker, Partch said she approaches her work with the perspective that infrastructure should benefit everyone, not just major users.

“As a person and an engineer, I have always enjoyed being outdoors and being active,” she explained. “I think that shows up in a lot of projects, because we don’t just think about the appearance of a project from the inside of a vehicle. It should also benefit cyclists and pedestrians. “

Hit the trails

One of three women in a class of around 200 engineers, Partch said she owed her career choice to her father.

“My dad wanted all of his kids to study engineering, law or medicine,” Partch said.

Born and raised in Denver, Partch is the middle child of three. His older brother pursued a career in law, and his younger brother followed in his footsteps as an engineer.

“My dad was happy when I graduated, but he always had high expectations of his kids so that was pretty much to be expected,” she said.

A mother of three, Partch said she spent most of her time outside of work exploring the outdoors with her family.

“We’ve been taking our kids on hikes since my youngest son was a baby,” Partch said. “One of our biggest outings is a family backpacking trip every year. We typically hike about 30 miles over a 4-5 day period, camping along the way.

As a teenager, Parch discovered a love for running, a passion that followed her throughout her life.

“Our coach would take us to Breckenridge and we would run Argentina Pass,” she said. “It was difficult and still beautiful.”

Until recently, Partch, 54, ran trails almost daily, but her knees aren’t as young as they used to be, and after two knee surgeries, Partch said she only runs once every two weeks.

“My most recent operation was on Monday – knee replacement,” she said. “I hope this helps me get back to running more often than not. “

With retirement on the horizon, Partch said her family love Glenwood Springs and would like to stay, but with the cost of living rising, they’re not sure it’s financially viable.

Before turning off the light in her engineering office for the last time, Partch said she had a few goals in mind.

“In the next 5 years? she asked, pondering the question in quiet contemplation. “I would like to complete the south bridge and make significant progress towards our community evacuation plan. “

Journalist Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at [email protected]

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