Montrose doubles parks, green space
MONTROSE — During the past 10 years, the green space or parks acreage within the city limits of Montrose doubled. While it represents growth and development of the city, it gives residents a greater way to connect with the most basic earthly resource: nature.
Recently, the Montrose Parks Department completed the West Main Street Trail Head, a staging area for a walking trail connecting West Main Street to the area north of the Ute Indian Museum. The trail head area features picnic tables and overnight parking and is one of a half-dozen projects the Montrose Parks Department will complete this year.
The city of Montrose encompasses a bit more than 17 square miles, or 11,200 acres, and 268 of those acres are green, according to numbers provided by the Parks Department.
These preserves have been developed into multiple-use areas where picnic tables, fishing bridges and playgrounds sit under large cottonwood trees. Each day, these spaces attract thousands of children, parents, lunch-hour workers and outdoor-exercise enthusiasts who seek a sanctuary away from home.
Montrose native Tara Lehigh brings her two children, 2-year-old Raiden and 3-year-old Kailee, to Baldridge Park three times a week.
Sometimes Tara’s mother, Martha Lehigh, tags along. Their journey is a 40-minute trek on a concrete trail that passes nature preserves and scenery along the Uncompahgre River.
“We can’t really afford this stuff (playground equipment) at home. Here, it’s free,” Lehigh said. “It also teaches them a lot about wildlife.”
Studies concluded the amount of green space and accessibility to those areas directly affect the mental health and general well-being of people. On a citywide scale, these areas can impact thousands of residents, according to Montrose psychiatrist Dr. David Good.
“I think it helps relieve the stress of everyday life and the anxiety that stress brings to everyday life,” Good said. “It promotes a sense of well-being.”
Lehigh said she could see a physical and mental change in her children before, during and after each visit to the park.
“They’re much more relaxed when we leave … ready for lunch and a nap,” Lehigh said.
Studies have documented greater stress, anger and irritability levels in people without such areas, according to Good.
“Vileness, domestic violence, you could make an argument that tendencies towards these behaviors are reduced with the more parks we have,” Good said.
Thordy Jacobson, superintendent of the Montrose parks and cemetery, said advancements in technology have allowed the city to increase parks without increasing staffing levels to maintain them.
Electronic timers for sprinklers, new efficient water pumps and better mowers allow park employees to easily handle upkeep, he said.
“We got all sizes of parks, some 25 acres, and some are just one block,” Jacobson said.
He said that in 2010 the city received 284 reservations for multiple-use shelters for parties and other events, more than in any previous year.
In April, the Montrose City Council approved a multiyear, $25 million Uncompahgre Riverway Master Plan to develop a 10-mile stretch of the Uncompahgre River corridor for recreation and commercial development.
The plan features 16 sections along the 10-mile stretch with goals of creating increased public access to the river, erosion prevention, whitewater areas, and areas and trails to connect with downtown.
The master plan adopts ideas from whitewater parks, pedestrian bridges and other river-based green space found in Canon City, Durango and Salida.
“The river plan is wonderful for kayakers and water sports. Particularly for those who are depressed, it can be a very soothing endeavor to get into water and play with water, and I’m really excited about adding that to the community,” Good said.