The road less traveled is sometimes the one the city paves for you.
Look around any park, or even your backyard, and you'll find a "social trail" or a "desired path."
"They're just those paths that people generally walk to make it easier. You'll see them in a park or anywhere where people are just taking a shortcut," said Denver Deputy Parks Manager Scott Gilmore.
Gilmore was recently lit up by email from unhappy Washington Park users, after Denver shifted the running trail off the northern edge near Virginia Avenue, and higher into the park.
"You're an idiot. You don't know what you're doing. They're going to want to run on the edge of the park. You should be fired," Gilmore said as he remembered the emails. "This trail, when it used to be down by the street, used to ice up, it used to get horrible, it was unsafe, people would fall. We've moved it up into the park which makes it actually a lot safer."
On Tuesday, he watched as no runner, walker or dog used the former "social trail."
Then again, the grass has regrown and there's a sign that reads:
Always use designated trails
to help us
prevent erosion and
keep your park beautiful.
"We had to fence off this area and keep it fenced for about a year-and-a-half to make sure people were staying on the designated trail," said Gilmore. "It was actually a 'social trail' that was created by people just moving around the perimeter of the park, runners mostly that wanted to run around as far as possible around the perimeter of the park. For a Parks Department, our job is to make sure people are staying safe."
At Denver's Cheesman Park, the western edge has multiple trails, worn just enough that it might be hard to figure out which one is the one planned by the city.
Near the 12th Avenue entrance on the west side, the "social trail" is a few feet west of the crosswalk, and requires path users to climb or drop off a curb.
"You're running, you're running and then you jump down this," said Gilmore. "I could actually get an email, someone running in the park, they run up here, they trip, they fall down here and then they say, 'we're going to sue the Parks Department because your trail is just poorly designed.' This is not our trail."
He points out the legit trails are ADA compliant and guide you to the proper crosswalk.
"As you can see as people pass by us, they're going to the crosswalk where cars can actually see them versus if they go this way, when they cross, they're not only hitting that drop, they're going to cross the street where cars really can't see them and catch up on them pretty quickly," said Gilmore.
Denver is trying. At least on the east side of Cheesman Park, where orange fencing blocks the space between the actual trail and the grass on the eastern edge.
"The fencing's pretty cheap, it's just keeping it up and having people not tear it down," said Gilmore. "This park is very large, so we're taking it in chunks."
In Aurora, there's a glaring "social trail" between the Aurora Municipal Center and the R-Line stop at the Aurora Metro Center Station.
"We can't always control if somebody wants to cut through," said Aurora Parks, Recreation & Open Space Spokeswoman Erin O'Neill. "That's not our land, so we don't have any kind of development on that side."
The trail blazes diagonally through a private vacant lot. Just to the southwest of that dirt trail is Aurora's newest paved trail.
"This connects our City Center Park and our City Center campus, along with the Highline Canal Trail to Metro Center and to the RTD R line station," said O'Neill. "While it may be winding through the park, it is a pretty straight forward trail once you get around Alameda. It's ADA friendly, you can walk, you can bike it and it's lit."
It's a $1.4 million improvement paid for with transportation grants that may stay shiny longer depending on people's habits.
"People continually do what they're used to. They don't like change," said Gilmore.