Riders criticize BLM effort to manage area

GRETEL DAUGHERTY/The Daily Sentinel—Four dirt bikers crest a ridge west of 27 1/4 Road and drop down into a wash as the friends go for an early evening ride in the desert north of Grand Junction

From a flat overlooking Grand Junction to the south, with the Bookcliffs still miles away to the north, a small band of dirt bikers prepares for an evening run into the setting sun. It’s nearly two hours before the final rays of day turn the cliffs from murky brown to purple, plenty of time to drive out in a cloud of alkali dust and be back at sundown.

Taming this section of Zone L, as it’s called on the Bureau of Land Management maps, makes about as much sense as trying to tail it in a stretch limo, the dirt bikers said as they pumped air into knobby tires, torqued down nuts and strapped on protective gear.

“We have no more impact on the ecosystem than a cow does,” said Chris Cunningham as he and his son, Aidan, 12, prepared for the evening run over trails they said have their origins in cattle tracks though the rabbit brush — the most prominent vegetation in sight.

The Cunninghams, Chad Kraig, Cy and Christel Allen and others regularly meet on the flat off 25 Road on evenings when weather permits, and they note that rain is rarely a barrier, given the rate at which the clays dry up after a storm.

The flat about five miles short of the base of the Bookcliffs is a bit of a hidden treasure. True, some out-of-towners have found it, but more out-of-state visitors gravitate to the open area off 27 3/4 Road than the flat, which could accommodate scores of pickups if needed.

If the bureau closes down the open area, it will force riders from the Front Range and elsewhere to seek out hospitable territory elsewhere, Kraig said.

“Nobody will come here anymore because they’ll all go to Utah,” said Kraig, who works at All Sports Honda, 555 Road 25, and noted he regularly sees rigs from out of state needing repairs, equipment or information.

“I had three huge outfits, they were probably $80,000 each, stop in today,” Kraig said last week.

If that market disappears, restaurants, hotels and grocery stores, as well as his business, will feel the loss, Kraig said.

Among the ideas being floated in the resource-management plan revamp is establishing designated loops that could attract visitors to sites such as the one off 25 Road.

The plan, however, would be a maintenance and enforcement nightmare, the riders said.

Designated routes are fine, but it’s the fun of riding through the washes that draws them to the barren landscape, Cunningham said.

And those routes would be limiting, said Christel Allen, a professional motocross rider from Loma.

“It’s so vast,” Allen said of the territory unfurled to the west. “No one’s ever going to see it all from one spot.”


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