Renaissance on the riverfront?

It was 1987 — and Mesa County was in the midst of a severe recession as a result of the oil-shale bust a few years earlier — when the Grand Junction/Mesa County Riverfront Commission was formed.

Despite the tough economic times, the community rallied behind Jim Robb, Bill Ela and other members of the Riverfont Commission to begin cleaning up the river corridor and, equally important, to embrace their vision of a riverfront trail and park system running from Palisade to the Utah border.

That vision hasn’t been fulfilled as yet. But now, 22 years later, in the middle of another serious economic downturn, the Mesa County commissioners are looking to revive the effort to complete that vision.

Good for them. We hope their efforts will reignite the community enthusiasm that existed during the first decade for the riverfront project.

We don’t mean to imply that the effort to preserve our riverfront corridor and the trails and parks along it has been abandoned.

Thousands of people enjoy hiking and biking on existing portions of the riverfront trail every year. And the current organization, now known as the Colorado Riverfront Commission, continues to work with city, county and state officials to preserve, maintain and expand the system of trails and parks. But efforts to complete the trail have been stymied by key property links across which there is not yet public access.

As detailed in an article by Daily Sentinel reporter Le Roy Standish, the commissioners have decided to make the acquisition of those missing links a top priority. In some places, detours away from the river may be required. Still, the commissioners hope to have all of the right of way for the trail acquired by 2012.

That’s no small order. More than 24 miles of trail right of way remain to be secured between Palisade and the Loma boat launch. But the commissioners and county staff are treating the effort as akin to acquiring right of way for a needed county road project, not a side issue that receives only occasional attention.

The creation of the Riverfront Commission and the burst of community support it generated would not have occurred if the county commissioners at that time — especially Maxine Albers and Dick Pond — had not wholeheartedly endorsed the project, along with members of the Grand Junction City Council, the Grand Junction Lions Club and many others.

We’re pleased to see the commissioners renewing the county’s commitment to the riverfront and we hope it will revive community eagerness to participate in this important local project.


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