50 tell GOCO access, availability top priority

Around 50 civic-minded Grand Valley residents met at Mesa County Workforce Center on Thursday night to envision a future for the area’s vast public lands.

It was an energetic mix of males and females with varied ages and backgrounds who followed instructions — mostly —from Bill Fulton, a consultant for Great Outdoors Colorado, host of the event.

The moment of silence, for example, wasn’t.

But that was perfectly understandable given the way the grass-roots, Grand Valley policy makers charged the room with a hopeful, electric buzz.

“It was a wonderful, energetic collaboration,” said Jackie Miller, GOCO program coordinator.

Eight tables of five or more people spent two hours thinking about the future and working to condense their thoughts into concise policy statements.

In the end, only three of the statements inscribed with magic marker on long white sheets of paper could rise to the top, but nearly all ideas won some consideration when taped upon the wall for all to see.

Great Outdoors Colorado is a state agency that invests Colorado Lottery revenues to support and sustain outdoor recreation, land conservation and wildlife. The organization hosted a “listening tour” at the center so local folks could participate in setting goals.

Sustainability and access were words on nearly everyone’s tongue, but many other ideas were discussed.

One table, consisting of Van K. Graham, 68, Steve McCall, 68, Chris Endreson, 31, Ilana Moir, 33, and Grand Junction City Councilman Bennett Boeschenstein, 70, saw a system of riverfront trails in the future that joined Moab, Utah, Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs. The final link joining the trails would be hammered together using a golden spike.

As envisioning goes, that last detail was a doozy, but there were many suggestions.

In a refreshing twist, there was no hand-wringing, fist-waving or rank incivility, just an exchange of ideas and hopes for the future. 

Fulton led the group through a series of exercises over two hours. GOCO’s ultimate goal: Rank the community’s top three priorities for use and development of local public lands.

The three ideas that garnered the greatest consensus Thursday night called on GOCO to distribute grants that further the following purposes:

■  Access and availability of outdoor destinations.

■  Preservation of natural resources.

■  Youth and education.

The group, consisting of stakeholders eligible for future GOCO grants and concerned members of the public, was heard loud and clear, said Lise Aangeenbrug, GOCO executive director.

The Riverfront Trail system the community currently enjoys grew out of a similar GOCO visioning session about six years ago. GOCO grants used to develop the Riverfront Trail were tailored according to the priorities expressed by the community then, Aangeenbrug said.

Mesa County received $32.5 million in GOCO grants since the agency started, she said.


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