Fruita worries that BLM plan will limit recreation in north desert area
The North Fruita Desert area is a magnet for visitors and outdoor enthusiasts, so it’s little wonder that the city of Fruita is protective of the area in the face of possible changes from the Bureau of Land Management’s impending Resource Management Plan.
The city penned a letter last week to Katie Stevens, director of the BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office, providing feedback about the agency’s sweeping management plan, which eventually will determine how more than 1.2 million acres of BLM lands are managed.
Fruita’s comments centered mostly on a proposal in the BLM’s preferred alternative to shrink the size of the North Fruita Desert Special Resource Management Area.
In particular, the preferred alternative would exclude the popular Highline Lake State Park from the management area.
The proposed reduction would “limit the future growth of outdoor recreational activities in the area, including, but not limited to: mountain biking, horseback riding and OHV (off-highway vehicle) travel,” the city wrote.
The move would “disconnect (Highline) from the designated outdoor recreation area,” which includes the popular 18 Road mountain bike trail network at the base of the Bookcliffs.
The city also disagrees with a decision to allow minerals materials extraction in the special resource management area, as currently included in the draft management plan.
The city called the idea of gravel pits or energy exploration in the area “incongruous with outdoor recreational activities” and wrote it “would severely diminish the experience of mountain bikers, hikers and off-roaders.”
Another issue the city raises, and encourages the BLM to consider, is the mixed-use nature of the special resource management area, specifically between mountain bikers and shooters.
The city said in its letter that of the roughly 67,400 visits in 2011 to the North Fruita Desert, 85 percent to 90 percent were mountain bikers.
But shooting often occurs relatively nearby to biking areas.
The city does not desire to ban shooting in the North Fruita Desert Special Resource Management Area, “but does encourage further review and thought of mixed uses, in particular in the Mountain Bike Emphasis area,” city officials wrote to Stevens.