Airport project closing ATV staging area

A sign directs off-road vehicle users away from a staging area near the main runway of Grand Junction Regional Airport. An 8-foot-high fence will be built so that the airport will comply with federal security regulations.

Attention ATV and motorcycle riders: Don’t be surprised to find a fence blocking off the popular staging area along 29 Road north of Interstate 70.

A fence being built by Grand Junction Regional Airport will block nearly 23 acres of the riding area to comply with federal security regulations. The area is near the east end of the main runway.

Signs point drivers east to another staging area.

“We want to be as accommodating as possible with the changes,” said Grand Junction Regional Airport board member Tom LaCroix.

Construction could begin as early as today,. The fence will be 8 feet high and topped with barbed wire. Because it is owned by the airport, tampering could be considered a federal offense.

Airport board members and the fencing plan came under fire by some members of the Grand Junction City Council who felt they had not been apprised of the issue and complained that it had not been discussed enough in the community.

ATV and motorcycle users have come to enjoy the area, which is lined with a row of trees and visible from I-70.

“Will they be happy when the fence goes up? My guess is no,” Council member Tom Kenyon said Monday during a City Council workshop on the issue. “I feel a real loss for some of the people in the community.”

The fence will not yet be built around the airport entirely. Area to the north will remain open.

Airport officials for years have been working with the Bureau of Land Management for transfer of some 26,000 acres to the north for an additional runway. That area and a nearby portion with farmland will not be fenced because they are not airport property.

When the BLM land is transferred to the airport’s ownership, the area will be fenced in, airport officials said.

Grand Junction City Council members were planning Monday to ask Transportation Security Administration officials about whether the fence was necessary to maintain security for airport operations. Officials from the office of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., also were expected to weigh-in on the issue during the Monday meeting. The teleconference was canceled by TSA after learning a reporter was at the public meeting.

Airport officials are worried about fireworks that are set off in the area and wayward bullets from target practice that occurs there. Pilots also have had lasers pointed into the cockpits of planes.

Approaching aircraft dip to less than 200 feet above the adobe hills.

Still, local politicians warned that the riding community will rally upon seeing their beloved staging and camping site, one of the only areas with trees, will now be closed.

“This is holy ground and you’re definitely going to hear about it,” Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis said.


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