Trust nears finishing line for securing land
You know the power of the area if you’ve ever watched the sun climb over Grand Mesa from the ridge on Curt’s Lane. Maybe you were bitten by the outdoor bug when you first felt the thrill of mountain biking up Pet-e-Kes without putting a foot down. Or perhaps you fell in love with the place after taking your family and friends out for a quick hike, traveling only a few minutes out of town to relish solitude amid a hectic week.
Whatever your story, the Lunch Loop trail system off Monument Road calls to thousands of visitors each year, and beckons several times a week for a growing number of locals. That’s a large part of the momentum behind the latest push by the Mesa Land Trust to preserve an adjacent 130-acre parcel of open land, the Three Sisters.
Raising a total of $1.6 million to purchase the land and preserve the trio of hills adjacent to the Lunch Loop near the Tabeguache Trail has been no small feat. Thanks to an extraordinary outpouring of support from the city of Grand Junction, community groups, outdoor lovers and business owners, the Mesa Land Trust is within sight of its fundraising goal and plans to close on the land deal within a couple weeks, said the group’s executive director, Rob Bleiberg.
“We’ve just had a lot of different groups and individuals give donations for the land from $20 to $35,000,” Bleiberg said. “It’s been an all-hands-on-deck effort.”
Mesa Land Trust is within about $45,000 of its goal, Bleiberg said. A barbecue at the Tabeguache trailhead late Saturday afternoon should help push the effort closer to meeting that goal. Work on the first of a series of trails is expected to start this spring with trailwork starting on another in the fall, Bleiberg said.
Plans for the Three Sisters site include connecting the property more closely to the Colorado Riverfront Trail and possibly extending the current Kids Meal trail parallel to Monument Road. Other ideas include an interpretative trails and an outdoor education center.
Mesa Land Trust typically preserves land in connection with agriculture uses and for wildlife habitat, but this is their first foray into preserving land for recreation. From the beginning, the project has been enthusiastically backed by the community, and even from users around the nation, Bleiberg said.
Some examples of donations have included a gift of $150,000 from the estate of a local man who was passionate about non-motorized recreation. Donations have poured in from the Gates Family Foundation, the Bacon Family Foundation and the Colorado Riverfront Foundation, to name a few. The Quimby Family Fund donated costs of hiring a staff worker to coordinate the project. Mesa Land Trust received a $675,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and the city of Grand Junction offered the site’s landowners’ another parcel of land valued at about $400,000, to help cover costs. The landowner, Gerald Tucker of Conquest Development is donating about $80,000 of value of their land for the trade. Small businesses and individuals donated about $65,000.
Dave Grossman of the nonprofit group the Grand Valley Trails Alliance, said he’s not surprised by the abundance of support for the project, even though most people in the area are in recovery from the latest recession.
“It’s hard to find anybody with opposition to it,” said Grossman, who has donated his skills to creating posters and a web presence for the project. “It’s all about preserving this landmark land, preserving a piece of the corridor protecting the (Colorado National) Monument and adding some cool recreation. That is a big appeal to a lot of people. It’s kind of like the perfect package deal.”
Grossman, a self-described avid hiker and mountain biker, said his biking group, the Endohaulics, presented other local mountain biking groups with a challenge to raise funds for the Three Sisters project.
“People are putting their heart where the trail is,” he said. “I do think it’s the perfect representation of a community in action. We’re in a recession but a lot of people can do with less. When you don’t have a lot of money it’s a great place to have fun and stay in shape.”