Glenwood Springs’ metropolis engineer designs infrastructure with recreation in thoughts


Glenwood Springs City Engineer Terri Partch hikes the trail system under Red Mountain ahead of knee replacement surgery that she hopes can return to trail running. Ike Fredregill

A dedicated civil servant, outdoor enthusiast, and engineer, Terri Partch has been developing urban infrastructure across the west for more than 30 years, but Colorado’s Rocky Mountains have always been her home.

“As an engineer, especially in small towns, it is amazing to be able to make changes in your everyday life for the benefit of the public,” says Partch, the urban engineer at Glenwood Springs.

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

The couple, both engineers, expanded their family as they hopped from mountain town to mountain town.

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

‘Sheer Determination’

With a passion for her work, Partch impressed with her determination and dedication to the projects that she believed would benefit residents the most.

“I met her for the first time during the budgeting process and she was not yet a department head,” said City Manager Debra Figueroa and added with a smile. “She walked into my office with a budget of $ 17 million in projects for a $ 2 million fund, looked at me and said, ‘How are we going to do this?'”

From the start, Partch saw the potential of the South Bridge project as one of the most important achievements of her career.

“South Bridge has always been a response to the coal seam fire in 2002,” said Partch. We say so, 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 made the importance of a southern evacuation route clear. “

During the Grand Avenue bridge replacement, Figueroa said Partch oversaw the longest detour in US history.

“Terri prepared the city as well as possible out of sheer determination,” said Figueroa. “She went to meeting after meeting and worked with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Fire Department, and law enforcement to prepare parents, make sure the kids could go to school, and secure adequate parking in Rifle.”

While the bridge replacement was still a challenge for the entire valley, Partch worked tirelessly to make sure the children were safe and the detour was as good as possible, Figueroa said.

Assistant City Engineer Jessica Bowser has worked with Partch for six years and says the experience taught her a lot.

“Terri has always been very direct about what she wants from someone, and she has an open door policy that makes it easy to approach challenges on the job,” said Bowser.

As an avid hiker, Partch says that she approaches her job with the perspective that the infrastructure should benefit everyone, not just the main users.

“As a person and an engineer, I’ve always loved being outside and being active,” she explains. “I think that comes into play with a lot of projects because we don’t just think about what a project will look like from the inside of a vehicle. Cyclists and pedestrians must also benefit from it. “

On the trails

Partch, one of three women in a senior year of about 200 engineers, owed her career choice to her father.

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

Born and raised in Denver, Partch is the middle of three children. Her older brother had a legal career and her younger brother followed in her footsteps as an engineer.

“My dad was happy when I graduated, but he always had high expectations for his kids, so it was more to be expected,” she said.

The mother of three, says Partch, spends most of her time outside of work exploring nature with her family.

“We’ve been going hiking with our children since my youngest son was an infant,” said Partch. “One of our biggest trips every year is a backpacking trip with the family. We usually hike about 30 miles over the course of 4-5 days and camp along the way. “

As a teenager, Partch discovered a love for cross-country running – a passion that has stayed with her all her life.

“Our coach would take us to Breckenridge and we would drive the Argentine Pass,” she said. “It was challenging and always nice.”

Until recently, Partch, 54, ran trails almost every day, but her knees are no longer as young as they used to be, and after two knee operations, Partch said she only runs every few weeks now.

“My last operation was on Monday – a knee replacement,” she said. “I hope it’ll help me walk more often than not.”

With retirement imminent, Partch said her family loves and would like to stay at Glenwood Springs, but with the cost of living soaring, she isn’t sure it’s financially viable.

Before she turns off the light in her engineering office for the last time, Partch has a few more goals in mind.

“In the next 5 years?” she asked, pondering the question in quiet contemplation. “I want to complete the South Bridge and make significant progress towards our community evacuation plan.”

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


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