River overtakes Riverfront Trail

Photos by Gretel Daugherty—Matt Miller with the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department pats down dirt with a shovel around one of 11 posts and cable that the city crew moved or replaced Tuesday after flooding earlier this month at the Blue Heron boat launch parking area.

The Colorado River swirls past a section of the Riverfront Trail where about 30 feet of sidewalk near Glacier Ice Arena has been sheared off by the force of the runoff-swollen river. The segment is part of a section of trail that recently had been moved about 40 feet back from the river.

The high and swift Colorado River washed away a portion of the Riverfront Trail in Grand Junction, the latest victim of a record runoff that has stuck landowners and communities across western Colorado with expensive cleanup work.

Roughly 30 feet of concrete between the former Glacier Ice Arena building and High Country Court was wiped out about two weeks ago when the river was running at its peak level, according to Mike Vendegna, parks superintendent for the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department. The water also eroded the dirt underneath another section of the trail about 100 yards away, although the path still exists.

That area of the Riverfront Trail is closed and will remain off limits to the public for the foreseeable future.

“It is dangerous, and we want people to stay away from there,” Vendegna said.

He said the trail section that collapsed was part of a 100- to 150-foot segment that city workers moved about 40 feet away from the river last winter. The city embarked on the $17,000 project, which was funded by the Riverfront Commission, because the river had altered its course and moved closer to the trail. City officials figured they had relocated the concrete path to an area the water would never touch. “It was like, ‘Wow, this (river) will never get back here,’” Vendegna said. “Well, five months later, it did.”

As soon as the water recedes, city engineers and officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will inspect the damage more closely and determine what kind of repair work has to be done.

“There has to be some extensive design work and extensive repair work,” Vendegna said. “If we have to do bank stabilization, it’s extremely expensive, but I have no idea (if that will be needed).”

The river and its tributaries this summer have triggered a cabin to fall into a creek in New Castle, caused minor flooding in a few homes in the Grand Valley, washed out roads in Mesa and Garfield counties and severely damaged a popular bike path in Glenwood Canyon.

Meanwhile, Grand Junction on Tuesday recorded its first 100-degree day this year, with the mercury topping out at 101 at 3:54 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

The heat will continue to melt what little snow remains at the highest elevations and push the river levels higher, although the Colorado hit its peak earlier this month, according to Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster with the Weather Service.

The Colorado River at Cameo in De Beque Canyon was at 12.6 feet early Tuesday evening and is expected to rise to 12.8 feet by Thursday morning. Flood stage is 12.5 feet.


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