City looks to sell off  land given  by family

The Grand Junction City Council may seek city voters' approval to sell Burkey Park and a small portion of Matchett Park, two mostly undeveloped parks along Patterson Road, in an effort to jumpstart some activity at Matchett Park.

Councilors are first seeking some input on the idea from relatives of the Burkey family, who donated the 18-acre parcel between 29 1/2 and 30 roads to the city more than 50 years ago. They may then approach voters about selling that parcel, along with 14 acres of frontage road at Matchett Park — land that presumably could become commercial development and help boost economic activity along the Patterson Road corridor.

The city cannot sell park land without voter approval, according to the city's charter.

"Burkey (Park) has been sitting there for 50 years, with its proximity to Matchett (Park). Could we derive some funds from it to help pay for Matchett?" Councilor Duncan McArthur said. "First we want to get some indication if there's any support from the family to see if they have any real objections, out of respect. Then we'll see."

Councilors have met twice in closed-door executive sessions in the past couple months to discuss the possibility of selling or trading land at the two parks.

Burkey Park was donated to the city in 1967 by Lewis Burkey and his wife, Mildred Burkey, and Lewis's brother, John W. Burkey. The Burkey family, with eight children, became prominent landowners and business owners in the region, starting the Burkey Lumber Co. in downtown Grand Junction.

Although the parcel was dedicated to the city decades ago, few improvements have been made on the vacant land.

A master plan for the park in 1994 called for trails, ball courts and a children's play area among other amenities. Three years later, city officials sought to sell or trade the park, but voters rejected the idea.

In 2008, the city Parks and Recreation Department installed a split-rail fence on the south edge of the park and added some limited landscaping. City officials briefly entered into talks with Mesa County officials to split costs of developing the park, a price tag estimated at the time to be $2 million to $3 million. Those talks ultimately went nowhere.

Local attorney John Lewis Burkey is named after his grandfather, John W. Burkey, and his great uncle, Lewis Burkey, the two brothers who donated the land. John Lewis Burkey said his grandfather and great uncle would be "rolling their eyes" at the prospect of the city considering selling the land after a vote.

"I know if my grandfather or Uncle Lew were around they would be very disappointed," Burkey said. "I really do know they would be against it. They were capitalists. If they wanted to sell something, they did. They gave back to the community. That's the legacy they wanted to have."

Ben Burkey was the last remaining Burkey sibling until his death in 2015.

Councilor Chris Kennedy said the only reason he's considering the idea is to help pay for development of Matchett Park.

In 2014, the city completed a master plan for the 205-acre parcel, located more than a mile west of Burkey Park on Patterson Road off 28 1/4 Road.

A few years ago a full buildout of the park was estimated at $36 million, including road infrastructure, ponds, a skatepark, grass playing fields, ball courts, playgrounds, pavilions, a dog park, nature trails, a community garden and a placeholder for a community recreation center and aquatics facility.

Councilor Duke Wortmann said the time might be right to try to sell Burkey Park and promote commercial development on Patterson Road.