Riverfront Trail efforts reinvigorated

Since state legislation passed creating a string of state parks along the Colorado River, progress to complete an unimpeded, 28-mile-long trail from the Loma Boat Launch to Palisade’s Riverbend Park has been slow.

Some areas are completed with finished cement sidewalk and are well-maintained, while other sections are fenced-off private property, inaccessible to the public.

All that seems to be changing.

The Mesa County Commission has put top priority on acquiring all the right of way needed to complete the Riverfront Trail along the Colorado River. The commission is placing the trail on par with a county road project: drawing a line on a map and plowing forward with property-owner negotiations. The plan is to have all the right of way for the trail secured by 2012.

“This is a county road project,” Commissioner Craig Meis said. “We build it, we maintain it.”

At a recent meeting with the commission, Tom Fisher, regional services director for the county, unveiled some of his research. Fisher and county staff have maps breaking the trail down into several sections, showing where the trail is, where it is projected to go and the names of property owners from whom the county could be seeking easements.

“I think we can treat this like a public works project,” he said.

The next step is to look at various trail alternatives, complete a right-of-way procurement study and sit down with all the partners, including the public, Fisher said.

“A lot of this depends on what the actual route will be,” said Rob Bleiberg, executive director of the Mesa Land Trust. “It is going to be quite a challenge to be right next to the water.”

The trail may diverge from the north side of the river to the south side at a few different points to keep the path near the river’s edge.

One of the most likely areas for this divergence would be in Fruita, where the Old Fruita Bridge would serve as a pedestrian path linking the trail to open space in Fruita.

The process of coordinating plans with other partners of the Riverfront Trail and acquiring easements and right of ways is time-consuming, but there is no reason those things can not be accomplished sooner rather than later, Fruita Mayor Ken Henry said.

“I am optimistic that in three to five years you are going to see a major part of the trail (acquired in Fruita),” he said. “You just don’t go out and get the whole thing at once.”


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