Fruita OKs plan to put recreational trails near canals

Hikers and bikers eventually will be able to recreate on trails next to irrigation canals and washes in Fruita under a plan approved by the City Council Tuesday night.

Council members unanimously agreed to enact the city’s parks, open space and trails master plan, which calls for developers of subdivisions adjacent to primary trails identified in the plan to donate a portion of their project for a trail.

For properties that abut canals and drainage ditches, trails would be built next to those waterways, assuming the land is developable. Under the plan, developers would have to dedicate 20 feet of right of way for the trail next to the canal easement.

The trail requirement only applies to land as it’s annexed into and developed in the city. City officials emphasized they will not force landowners to sell or acquire land for trails through eminent domain.

The plan to create trails next to canals has generated concerns from the agencies that own and operate irrigation canals. Even though the city said it will develop trails next to, rather than on top of, canal easements, some worry about the proximity of recreation to waterways.

“We’re still concerned with any recreational use of the canal,” Robert Raymond, president of the board of directors of the Grand Valley Irrigation Co., told council members. The irrigation company maintains nearly 100 miles of canals in the valley.

Construction of parks, open space and trails is funded by impact fees paid by developers. Under the plan, they will receive a credit against those fees if they build the trail on their property but won’t receive the credit just for setting aside the land.

Local builder John Moir encouraged council members to consider a lodging tax increase to help fund the development of parks, open space and trails. He said tourists stand to benefit from such amenities and therefore should bear some responsibility for subsidizing them.

In other action, the council adopted a $57.9 million budget for 2010. The vast majority of that money — roughly $44 million — is dedicated to the construction of a new wastewater treatment plan and a community center.

City Manager Clint Kinney said the city’s total revenue is projected to decline 32 percent from the end of 2008 through 2010. The city compensated by laying off two employees this year and cutting $600,000 from the budget during the summer.

The city will start the year with 55 full-time employees and plans to add six toward the end of the year for the new wastewater plant and community center.

City Clerk Margaret Steelman said the city’s operations budget, which largely pays for personnel, is expected to drop 6 percent from $10.3 million this year to $9.7 million next year.


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