AWAY FROM THE SMOKE

Haggerty takes easy way out, stays indoors, allowing time for promotion of Robb River Rally, Centennial Challenge

“Western Slope Air Quality Not A Major Health Worry,” read the Page One headline in your Daily Sentinel on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

That’s not what my lungs told me. I was choking.

Multiple fires in the western United States have been choking the Grand Valley for the past two days,” read the first paragraph of Le Roy Standish’s story that day.

I thought so.

“ A high weed-pollen count, combined with a mix of ash and soot in the air has sparked some concern among health professionals. But the air quality has only dipped into the moderate category and is considered only a concern to those with existing respiratory problems.”

I have existing respiratory problems. For me, all this smoke is a major health worry. I was especially worried about where to hike in this stuff, since smoke filled the air from Los Angeles to Denver.

I took the easy way out — and stayed in. That gave me time to promote two special events coming up in the valley this month — hopefully after the smoke blows away and the temperatures cool down a bit.

We’ll all have a special chance to be extra cool on the Colorado Riverfront Trail this coming Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the second annual Robb River Rally. The event is at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, the crown jewel of the Riverfront Trail system.

I wrote about this rally a couple of weeks ago. So did Lynn Lickers, but for those of you who missed it, the Robb River Rally is a community event designed to keep Jim Robb’s vision alive — a vision to provide open, continuous access to the Colorado River corridor through the Grand Valley.

Robb envisioned numerous small park picnic and fishing areas, as well as a handicap accessible walkway open to bicycles, walkers, horseback riders (where appropriate), moms with baby strollers, kids on inline skates, bird watchers with binoculars ... in other words, all of us.

Jim was instrumental in creating a “string of pearls,” five distinct sections that have become a unique state park. He was a Grand Junction civic leader, former State Parks board member and chair, an elected representative and champion of state parks.

Robb also helped create the Colorado Riverfront Foundation, which, along with Colorado State Parks and local communities, are involved in building a 35-mile river corridor trail system from Island Acres in the middle of De Beque Canyon, to the Fruita Section of the state park.

It’s that Riverfront Trail that we’re celebrating, and you should too. Events throughout the day include guided bike rides to Corn Lake and Connected Lakes, history tours along the river, nature walks and free float trips from Catfish Canoe Company.

Musical entertainment at the Elizabeth B. Harris Botanical Gardens amphitheater will be provided by Walt Smith and Jeff Pine. Food and beverage concessions will be available for this family affair.

Visitors can stop by one of the many informational booths set up at the amphitheater and around Watson Island. Manning those booths will be representatives of the Tamarisk Coalition, the Botanical Gardens, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Grand Valley Audubon, Colorado State Parks, Mesa County Search and Rescue and local cycling shops.

As a special feature, the Western Colorado Math and Science Center will provide a nature and exploratory area for children of all ages to learn more about river biodiversity and ecology.

All events and activities are free. For more information call the Riverfront Commission office at 683-4333.

Next up: The Colorado National Monument will host its first “Centennial Challenge” on Sept. 26. (Free admission into the Monument in honor of National Public Lands Day!)

The Colorado National Monument Association sponsors this event. CNMA is the official fund-raising group for the National Monument. It hopes to raise funds for the monument’s upcoming 100-year birthday in 2011. Donate $10 or more and receive an official centennial commemorative pin.

The “challenge” is for walkers, joggers and bicyclists. Rim Rock Drive will be closed to motorized traffic that day from the visitor center to DS Road between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

There will be three out-and-back Centennial Challenges along the road from the visitor center:

• A two-mile hike to Otto’s Trail and back;

• An eight-mile hike to Upper Monument Canyon Trailhead and back;

• A 14-mile trek to 16½ Road and back.

Strollers and tricycles are permitted. Skateboards, rollerblades and scooters are prohibited.

Canine friends are welcome, as long as they’re on a six-foot (or shorter) leash at all times.

Dogs are not allowed on any trails and animal waste bags will be provided at the visitor center.

Whew. I’m almost out of breath just writing about this stuff. I should have stopped before “animal waste bags.”


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