Going clean: Colorado River front will benefit from pleasing plan

A comprehensive plan to emphasize the city’s commitment to a clean Colorado River front was recently adopted.


Taking a trek down Audubon Trail

Drive Time and Distance: 5 minutes; 1.5 miles

Length: 5 miles

Hiking Time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Did you see the big news? Journalist Emily Anderson, whose astute reporting of the City Council meeting was detailed in Thursday’s edition of your Daily Sentinel, wrote:

“The Grand Junction City Council adopted the comprehensive plan, which took two and a half years to develop, at a meeting Wednesday night. The plan details how the city plans to handle transportation, land use and utility system growth as the community grows over the next 25 years.

“Councilman Gregg Palmer, who suggested the idea for a comprehensive plan along with then-Councilman Jim Spehar five years ago, said he was pleased to see the plan adopted, but suggested adding a paragraph to the executive summary that would emphasize the city’s commitment to a clean Colorado River front.

“The amendment, which was the only part of the plan changed at the meeting, was adopted unanimously.

“The plan also was adopted unanimously.”

Right on!

A clean Colorado River front .... what a concept! It’s heartening to see the current council agree with those of the past in supporting a clean riverfront.

We know the Colorado River is our lifeblood, but sometimes we take it for granted.

The Colorado River also is the lifeblood of the arid southwest! Experts believe more than 25 million Americans rely on this river — our river — for water.

Contemplating this and other such weighty matters, we took a hike on a portion of the riverfront along the Audubon Trail and into the James M. Robb Colorado River State Park at Connected Lakes. Robb, as many of you recall, had tremendous vision and worked tirelessly to clean up the riverfront, from De Beque Canyon to Fruita.

The Audubon Trail starts next to the Blockbuster Video Store in the Redlands Marketplace at the northwest corner of Broadway (Colorado Highway 340) and Dike Road. It’s a key segment of the Colorado River Trail system. This 1.5-mile paved path links with the trail system in the state park.

The pavement continues for another mile to Promontory Point, making this a five-mile round trip. This is where the Redlands Canal tail race flows into the mighty Colorado. You can see this point upstream from the Redlands Parkway Bridge.

The Audubon Trail lies within the floodplain of the Colorado River and parallels the tail race from the Redlands Water and Power company hydroelectric plant. A variety of river-bottom habitats can be seen along the trail, including cottonwood groves, cattail marshes and recovering gravel ponds. The 1931 power plant building is adjacent to the canal and trail, and some big honkin’ power poles line the way for a distance.

No motorized vehicles (except wheelchairs) are allowed on the trail. Bicyclists and inline skaters are asked to stay on the paved trail, maintain a safe speed and announce their approach before passing walkers. The snow and slush in a number of shaded areas along this trail should keep bicycles and inline skates at bay for another month or so.

Dogs must be leashed and young children should be supervised because of danger posed by the rushing water of the canal that parallels the path, and the Colorado River adjacent to the wildlife sanctuary. Trail users may park in the lot of the shopping center or in Connected Lakes State Park (with a valid state parks pass). To drive to the state park, stay on Dike Road and drive behind the Redlands Marketplace between Albertson’s and the Pepsi distributorship. It’s only 1.6 miles from Broadway to the park.

This trail also links with the Blue Heron Trail and the Riverside Trail via the pedestrian/bike path over the Colorado River along Broadway.

Before the trail enters the state park, you can cross the lot that will be the future home for the Grand Valley Audubon Nature Center, then cross Dike Road and enter the Lucy Ferril Ela Wildlife Sanctuary.

Along the way, there’s a Great Horned Owl nest about a mile from Blockbuster, and there are a dozen Blackheaded Grosbeak nests in the area. If you’re lucky, quiet and out early in the morning or late in the evening, you may see fox, beaver, coyotes, flickers, Harry Woodpeckers, Osprey and Belted Kingfishers.

The area has obviously been disturbed by human activity, but it’s changing fast, thanks to thousands of people who have helped clean up our riverfront.

People and wildlife will benefit, since nearly 80 percent of all bird species in Colorado frequent riparian zones such as the one here on the Colorado River, yet only three percent of the landmass in Colorado lies within a riparian zone.  It’s important, and it’s always changing.

And I’m sure Jim Robb and others are looking down from the heavens above, and smiling about the council’s thoughtful commitment to a clean riverfront.

Good job on the comprehensive plan, too.


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