Bike trail gets big cash boost

Once built, new path will link GJ, monument

Rob Bleiberg, executive director of the Mesa Land Trust, makes an announcement about the Monument Road corridor project Friday afternoon at the Lunch Loop trail head. A $1.5 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado will allow for the construction of a paved bike trail that will connect downtown Grand Junction to the popular Lunch Loop/Three Sisters bike trails and Colorado National Monument. The new trail will give bicyclists and pedestrians safer access to the trails without having to travel by car.

The makeshift signs that stand along Monument Road going toward Colorado National Monument warning motorists and cyclists alike to share the road soon will be a distant memory.

That’s because Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded the city $1.5 million to build the final section of paved bike trail that will connect downtown Grand Junction to the monument, taking cyclists and pedestrians off the road.

The grant is the latest in a series of awards from GOCO — $39 million worth — that entities in the county have received either to build paved bike trails or to preserve lands throughout Mesa County.

This award was made possible because of a collaborative effort between the city, county, Mesa Land Trust, One Riverfront, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

“Partnership is probably the most-used word you’re going to hear, and we are thrilled to be a partner in this effort to develop some trails that the public continues to ask for,” Paul Nelson, chairman of the Colorado Riverfront Foundation, said Friday when the grant was announced.

“These kinds of partnerships make good financial sense, but more than that, they actually improve the results than trying to do this by ourselves,” added Katie Stevens, BLM field manager. “It’s going to be a great thing not to have to ride my bike down the shoulder when I come out here.”

This grant is the latest in a decades-long effort to create open space and hiking and biking trails connecting all parts of the Grand Valley. The section between the Colorado River and the monument is an important piece because the BLM estimates it is the most used, about 120,000 visits a year.

The money will be used to build a section of trail that extends from the Riverfront Trail to the Lunch Loop parking lot and trailhead via the Lunch Loop/Three Sisters Open Space, pieces of which the land trust has secured over the years.

The trail not only will serve cyclists, but hikers and joggers, too.

“The vehicle traffic on Monument Road creates challenges for many people and getting them to come up here by bike,” said city Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein, who’s been working to get state grants for the valley’s trail system since the early 1980s. “Even though it’s close to town, recreation riders, families and pedestrians have difficulty accessing this public open space without a car. This separate trail will give access to all.”

The new trail is expected to be completed by June 2019.

The grant is part of a statewide project called the Connect Initiative, and was one of $8.9 million in grants awarded statewide to help close gaps in trail networks and improve access to recreation areas.

Those five grant awards will construct 6.5 miles of trails, and leverage more than $11 million in local matching dollars. Over a four-year period, GOCO’s Connect Initiative will invest about $28.4 million to closing trail gaps and creating safe access for cyclists.

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Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the GOCO grant money was used to connect the Riverfront Trail to the Colorado National Monument. The grant specifically is for the connection between the riverfront and the Lunch Loops trail area.


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