Many thanks to those who’ve helped Jim Robb’s riverfront vision become reality

The Colorado Riverfront Trail is a masterpiece still in the making. Jim Robb’s dream of connecting the trail from Palisade to Fruita continues to become a reality, and a big step was made recently when the trail was extended east from 32 Road at Corn Lake to 331/2 Road and Clifton Nature Park.



QUICKREAD

New stretch of Riverfront –

32 Road to 33½ Road

Drive time and distance: 15 minutes, 7 miles to new parking lot

Length: 2 miles one way

Walking time: 1.5 hours round trip

Difficulty: Easy



Congratulations and thank you Kathleen Arnett, Colorado Riverfront Foundation and Commission, Mesa County, GOCO, Mesa Land Trust, Colorado State Parks, Clifton Sanitation District, Tamarisk Coalition, Western Colorado Conservation Corps, and hordes of others — for keeping Jim Robb’s dream alive.

These individuals and entities helped open a new stretch of the Colorado Riverfront Trail — from 32 Road at Corn Lake to 33½ Road and Clifton Nature Park.

That’s a mile and a half as the raven flies, but it’s two miles long as the river bends.

Former civic leader Jim Robb’s dream was to create a riverside trail stretching from the middle of De Beque Canyon to the Utah border. It’s taken decades, but we’re now closer than ever.

“This is a big goal for the (Mesa County) Facilities and Parks Department. Within the next four or five years,” Mesa County spokesperson Jessica Peterson said, “we hope to have the trail from Palisade to Fruita completed.”

Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis has publicly recognized the importance of the riverfront trail from a transportation standpoint.

“Of course,” Peterson said, “Mesa County’s transportation puzzle includes bus systems, bike lanes and many other elements, but the Riverfront Trail is obviously a high priority for this commission.”

Extending the trail east from 32 Road to 33½ Road cost $1.5 million. It was funded by a $740,000 legacy trail grant from Great Outdoors Colorado. Mesa County’s contribution was a little more than $760,000.

Right on!

Colorado State Parks gave Mesa County permission to connect the new trail to the existing trail on state property at the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park at Corn Lake.

The trail now twists underneath the highway at 32 Road and the Colorado River before it continues behind Clifton Sanitation District’s Wastewater Treatment facility. Then, with help from the Mesa Land Trust, the Riverfront Foundation purchased a conservation easement on Arnett’s property to continue the trail upriver and further east.

At the dedication ceremony Aug. 25, Meis said, “We’ve made completion of the trail from Palisade to Fruita a high priority for Mesa County. The trail doesn’t just give people an alternative way to get around our communities. Use of the trail provides for a healthier community and economy.”

One of the neatest things about this particular stretch of trail is that it connects kids to nature. The trail traverses within a half mile of three elementary schools: Pear Park, Chipeta and Rocky Mountain. It also serves as the entryway for the Clifton Nature Park at 33½ Road.

Naturally, the Riverfront Trail needs maintenance — snow shoveled in the winter, rocks and debris cleared off the rest of the year. For bicyclists, in-line skaters, moms on skateboards, kids on scooters and dads pushing baby carts, those maintenance issues are important, but it’s still cheaper to clear the riverfront trail than to clear roads and highways.

The next big step toward completion of the Riverfront Trail will be design and construction of the “Fruita Connection” between the Redlands Parkway bridge at 24 Road to the Fruita Visitor Center. Peterson said the design phase is under way and construction is expected to begin on that stretch in mid-2011.

While the trail may be a boon to hikers, cyclists and dads with baby strollers, what does it mean to wildlife and to waterfowl hunters on the river?

“We’ve worked as best we can to help in the planning stages and minimize impacts on wildlife and wildlife recreation,” Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said.

“We’re focused on where the trail crosses Walter Walker State Wildlife Area.”

Walker SWA is a critical waterfowl resting area. It’s right in the middle of this new four-mile “Fruita Connection.”

Although hunting is not allowed at Walker SWA, other stretches of the river are prime waterfowl hunting areas. Hampton said the DOW has worked with planners to create a safe buffer zone between hunting areas and the paved Riverfront Trail all along the river corridor. He acknowledged, however, that “as the Grand Valley continues to grow and urbanize, it’s going to be a challenge to balance growth with wildlife management.”

Good point.

Don’t forget the 2010 Hike for Mike Williams is Sept. 11 in the Devils Canyon area of McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, 2.3 miles southwest of Fruita.

Two simultaneous hikes will take place: an easy, fairly level 2.5-mile loop, and a more difficult, sometimes steep 5.3-mile hike. Proceeds will help fund construction of a geological teaching trail, dedicated to a great science teacher, Mike Williams, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack while hiking with his students and his son a couple of years ago.

For more information, go to the web at: http://www.riverfrontproject.org/events.htm.


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