POST Academy eyeing BLM land for training site

An obstacle course, a shooting range and tracks for driving, running and riding all-terrain vehicles would be part of a proposed site for the Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy in Grand Junction, currently housed at Western Colorado Community College.

The site would include a classroom building, splash pads and a mock city block for simulating crime scenarios, all of which could also be used by local and nearby law enforcement agencies for continued training. Construction of the full site would cost $1.6 to $2 million, according to Derek Wagner, Mesa State College director of strategic initiatives.

Mesa County and the city of Grand Junction are likely to chip in on the project, Wagner said, but it isn’t clear who will pay for what yet. The county has a $600,000 Department of Local Affairs grant it plans to dedicate to building the driving track. The grant money has to be spent by summer 2012.

The college submitted an application in 2008 to acquire Bureau of Land Management property for a regional public-safety training facility in the Whitewater Hill area. The original proposal was for 209 acres, but plans have been scaled back to 80 acres because endangered cacti in the area could not be removed for construction. Wagner said the college hopes to finalize the land purchase by the end of the year.

BLM land can be purchased by local or state governments or their entities under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act, as long as the land is used for recreational or public purposes and an environmental study is performed. The BLM is working on an environmental study for the 80-acre site and has to get approval at the state and federal levels before transferring the land.

Catherine Robertson, field manager of the Grand Junction BLM office, said land transfers under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act are rare. Mesa County purchased some BLM land previously, but this would be Mesa State’s first time doing so.

Brigitte Sundermann, director of Western Colorado Community College, said her goal is to eventually house all POST Academy classes on the 80-acre site. The academy has conducted some obstacle course and fitness training in parks and driving training at the Whitewater Boat Ramp.

“This gives it a feeling of an academy, a feeling of continuity,” Sundermann said of the plans.


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