Monument Road area recreation, preservation eyed

The idea of protecting the scenic Monument Road Corridor, and connecting the area near the east end of Colorado National Monument to downtown via a multi-use recreation path, has generated interest — as well as a lot of community feedback.

Much of that initial community information was presented by the Mesa Land Trust Wednesday evening at an open house at Wingate Elementary School. It was the result of a number of community and stakeholder meetings held last month.

The takeaways? There seems to be widespread support for an off-road, hard surface path along Monument Road, where today cars zip past road bikers pedaling along the shoulder.

People also said the path would need to connect to existing paths and trail areas — like with the Lunch Loop and Tabeguache trail areas, and with the Riverfront Trail closer to town. Those connections will need to be safe, and people prefer either going above or below Monument Road if at all possible at those crossings.

A new idea to develop what’s called the Painted Bowl section, right across the road from the Lunch Loop area, has the potential of becoming a parking and staging area for road bikers, and a sort of hub for trail users.

A few issues were also raised during the feedback meetings, including the fact that there are sections of Monument Road that are flood-prone, and others that are sandy.

And while there has been a lot of talk about the possibility of additional recreational development in the corridor, Mesa Land Trust Project Coordinator Libby Collins said she’s also heard from people who are ultimately concerned with protecting the views, and the striking visual open space of the corridor.

“We’ve been talking about the bike path, but what came out of (the community meetings) was not just about the path — it was protecting views. It was, we’d like to see land preserved,” Collins said.

Making the project happen will be a collaborative effort — planners and engineers from the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County were on hand at the open house Wednesday, and Colorado National Monument and the Bureau of Land Management are supporting the public dialog on the effort.

But the Mesa Land Trust will be charged with securing property along the corridor. The unique organization has protected wide swaths of land from development by offering tax-friendly conservation easements, and at other times outright buying pieces of property it wants to protect.

The recent purchase by the trust of the Three Sisters property adjacent to the popular Tabeguache trail system is an example. They purchased the land, put together a coalition of community partners to develop the trails there, and then turned it over to the city for it to become an open space park. That project sparked the idea of the larger corridor protection idea.

More information on the project can be found online at http://www.monumentroadvision.com.

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