2 valley trails on state short list

Two Grand Valley trail projects have a chance at receiving a funding boost from Colorado after making it onto a very short list, the “16 in 2016” initiative, a statewide push from the governor’s office to create 16 important trails in 2016.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office announced Wednesday that about 10 unfinished miles of the Colorado Riverfront Trail and the proposed Palisade Plunge are included in the state’s effort to create more connectivity and trails to spur outdoor recreation.

The two local projects were chosen for the priority list from about 200 proposed projects around the state.

While the local projects made the priority list, it doesn’t guarantee funding, said Todd Hartman, a spokesman with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

“These trails are eligible for funding, they are not getting funding,” Hartman said. “This was an effort to highlight them and give them a push.”

That push is welcome traction for the Grand Valley, said Sarah Shrader, a member of the state’s Outdoor Recreation Commission.

“It’s really exciting,” Shrader said. “It means the Front Range is thinking about economic development on the Western Slope. We need it. This will bring more tourists and more money to our community.”

Shrader said people increasingly are seeking connectivity to get around, and for recreation. Offering full trail networks can encourage people to move to the area.

“My employees are millennials. They ride their bikes to work,” said Shrader, a partner at Bonsai Design. “We need young people who want to live here and stay here and this helps. This brings young families here.”

Fruita’s section of the Colorado Riverfront Trail, extending about four miles to the Kokopelli Trail head, may be the most shovel-ready portion of the trail network.

Fruita City Manager Mike Bennett said the city already is working on a grant with Great Outdoors Colorado to create that connection.

“It’s definitely a huge emphasis if you go after funding,” he said of the project making the state’s priority list. “Hopefully it will help. We’re starting the design work and it’s very close to being ready to build.”

Two other sections to fully connect the Colorado Riverfront Trail from end to end in the Grand Valley may be trickier to complete.

Landowners historically have not been willing to sell land to make connections on the preferred route between Las Colonias Park and 29 Road and between 33 1/2 Road and 36 Road in Palisade, said Bennett Boeschenstein, a Grand Junction City Council member and a member of the Colorado Riverfront Commission board of directors.

Support for the Palisade Plunge is encouraging, said Scott Winans, president of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, or COPMOBA, which has proposed the project and has been working on the mountainside trail connection. The 31-mile, single-track trail would start at the Mesa Top Trail on Grand Mesa and end at a Mesa County trail head for Rapid Creek.

Winans said the trail would attract visitors far and wide, and its design capitalizes on existing trails.

“They both support the community in different ways,” Winans said about the two Grand Valley trail projects.

w"They provide a great quality of life asset.”

A Glenwood Springs-area project — the Lower Valley, or LoVa, Trail — also made the list. It is proposed as a multi-use, non-motorized trail that will travel through the Colorado River Valley beginning in Glenwood Springs to connect the communities of New Castle, Silt, Rifle and Parachute. Once completed, the paved trail will end at the Mesa County line and also will connect to the existing Rio Grande and Glenwood Canyon trails beginning in Glenwood Springs, according to the state.


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