Urban Trails Committee doggedly planning for a better tomorrow

The Urban Trails Committee fully endorses the Sentinel editorial of April 10 supporting the need for a comprehensive long-term ‘‘vision’” for creating a community with desirable lifestyle options and attractive outdoor spaces.

Members of the UTC are appointed by the Grand Junction City Council to provide advisory oversight on capital projects, land development project review and street facilities.

The Urban Trails Master Plan is a strategic tool to guide the future course of pedestrian and bike facilities in the Grand Valley. The UTC is now focused on developing a priority list of bike and pedestrian improvements that are needed for safe routes to schools, commuter safety and connectivity of sidewalks and bike lanes.

The committee has been identifying gaps in the existing network and proposing plan modifications to remedy missing links. By providing connectivity and accommodation of multimodal traffic, the UTC has an opportunity to foster a more active, healthy, economically viable and livable community for all ages and abilities.

The UTC looks forward to participating in the 2040 Regional Transportation Planning Process; however, we do not see that process as replacing a master plan. The UTC believes a master plan provides a big-picture view that can be applied to any capital project. As a result of the county abolishing the plan that was in place, it is like a construction site operating without a blueprint.

The county will now refer to the 1995 Road and Bridge Specifications that now currently govern motorized transportation construction.  The goal of the UTC is for the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan is to include multi-modal transportation options.

The first bike lanes came into existence in Grand Junction in 1997 as a result of the 1995 Urban Trails Master Plan. Since then, the UTC has 104.3 miles of bike lanes throughout the city.  The 2012 Benchmarking Report on Bicycling and Walking in the U.S. concluded that bicycling and walking projects create 11-14 jobs per $1 million spent, compared to just seven jobs created per million spent on highway projects.

The walkability score from walkscore.com for Grand Junction is 29 on a 100-point scale. In a 2009 study, for every one-point increase in walkability score, property values increased by $700 to $3,000. Additionally, according to the Association of Realtors, 56 percent of Americans want to live in smart-growth communities.

In the 2012-2017 Community Health Improvement Plan for Mesa County, community health experts and the county board of health recognized the fundamental importance of the built environment (sidewalks, bike paths, trails, etc.) to the health of our community. The key findings of this assessment noted the importance of environmental factors to positive health outcomes, including access to health facilities, walking paths, healthy food options and green space. This is a time of opportunity and collaboration.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 1963-70, 4.2 percent of children aged 6-11 were obese. In the most recent update in 2007-2008, this rate had skyrocketed to 19.6 percent of children.  While obesity has risen dramatically, this has been associated with declines in physical activity. In 1969, 41 percent of students walked or biked to school; that rate has declined to only 13 percent in 2001. As a result of the declining physical activity and increasing obesity rates, these children are at risk of high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, poor self-esteem and orthopedic problems. For the first time in the history of the world, this generation is expected to have a lifespan five years less than their parents.

Safety is consistently cited as a barrier to actively commuting to school and work. By adding connections of bike lanes and sidewalks between neighborhoods and schools, we would expect to reverse the current trend and observe students traveling to and from school by walking or bicycling.

You can do your part by using the facilities already in existence. Take the opportunities that you have to outline a safe route, and actively commute to work, school, local retailers or community centers.  The UTC plans to continue the momentum of these encouraging collaborative efforts in our community by continuing to create safe modes of non-motorized transportation for citizens of all ages and abilities.

Julie Sabin, Co-Chair,

Elizabeth Collins, Co-Chair,

Dr. Kristin Heumann, Member,

Urban Trails Committee


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