Completing the trail is a wise investment

Like many folks in the Grand Valley, we’re pleased that another phase of the Colorado Riverfront Trail is slated to be constructed next year. That is occurring, thanks to a $2.9 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and the continuing commitment of the Mesa County commissioners.

The latest phase to be funded will expand the trail roughly from 18 Road east to the Walter Walker Wildlife Area near 21 Road. Once it is complete, along with two other sections currently under construction or authorized, there will be a continuous ribbon of riverfront trail stretching from the Fruita Welcome Center to 27 Road in Grand Junction.

Then, only a handful of small sections between 27 Road and 29 Road, and between Clifton and Palisade, will remain to complete a riverfront trail system through the heart of the valley.

Building such a trail was the dream a quarter century ago, when the Grand Junction/Mesa County Riverfront Commission was created in the midst of an earlier economic downturn.

It was successful in those early days because so many groups and individuals worked together to accomplish the initial goals — organizations such as the Grand Junction Lions Club, Mesa County, the cities of Grand Junction and Fruita and the town of Palisade. While Grand Junction city crews provided most of the mechanical labor early on, numerous individuals, businesses and groups donated time and equipment to help clean up portions of the riverfront and to build trails.

Others donated money, property or easements across their property to ensure the riverfront trail would progress.

Even in those early years, money from the Colorado Lottery, and later GOCO, was critical to keeping the work proceeding, just as it is now.

But the state money from lottery and Lotto proceeds always comes with a requirement for matching funds from some local entity. In the past few years, it has been the Mesa County commissioners who have led that effort.

The county is contributing money the bulk of the money to make up the difference between the $2.9 million GOCO grant and the estimated $6.1 million cost of the latest phase of trail construction. Funds are also coming from the Riverfront Commission, the city of Fruita and other local organizations.

At a time when budgets are tight for all government entities, it’s not always easy to see the value in long-term projects that don’t have a direct effect on the local economy. But the current county commissioners have made completion of the riverfront trail from Fruita to Palisade a top priority, and they have stuck by that commitment.

We applaud them for doing so, and GOCO for continuing to provide grants for the riverfront system here.

It’s important to finish what began 25 years ago, not just to fulfill the vision of those who first worked on the riverfront, but to make this community a more attractive place to live, recreate and conduct business.


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