County awards contract to build part of Plunge

A Grand Junction company that specializes in designing and building shared-use trails won the contract to construct the first phase of the Palisade Plunge trail.

The Mesa County commissioners awarded a $678,639 contract Monday to Singletrack Trails, 2591 Legacy Way, to construct the lower half of the 33-mile biking, hiking and equestrian trail from the bottom of Grand Mesa to the Colorado River near North River Road.

The company is well known in the region for building similar trails, including singletrack downhill trails at Powderhorn Mountain Resort, on the mesa and the Kokopelli Loops from Loma to Moab. This year alone, the company is working on numerous other trails in Colorado and Utah.

The Plunge is designed to be the gem of them all, dropping more than 6,000 feet from the top of the Grand Mesa into the town of Palisade.

Scott Winans, president of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association, which worked with Palisade and the county to get the grant and has been a driving force behind creation of the trail, praised the commissioners for getting involved in the project from the get-go.

"This will serve as a marquee project, an attraction to our region that will be visible worldwide," Winans said. "There are a number of trails like this around the world, but it's very small. To have it a 6,000-foot descent and end adjacent to a municipality is not a common entity for a mountain bike trail."

The Palisade trail would descend more than the Downieville Classic trail in California, which drops about 5,000 feet, but not as much as the Whole Enchilada trail near Moab, which descends nearly 8,000 feet.

Winans' group has already secured $9,000 to help maintain the Palisade trail after it's completed by November, but has pledges from area businesses for another $40,000 over the next five years, far exceeding the group's initial fund-raising goal of $30,000.

This first phase of the project, construction for which is to start later this month, is to go from Lands End Road to U.S. Highway 6, a 13.3 mile stretch entirely on public land. While horseback riding will be part of the trail, that will be restricted to the forested areas, Winans said.

While most of the money for the first phase of the project is from a $527,000 grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife awarded last year, the county is kicking in $85,000 toward it, some of which the county was already expecting to spend on various road improvements that will tie in with the trail, said Peter Baier, director of the Mesa County Public Works Department.

The remaining funds came from donations from area businesses.

Palisade also is planning to construct a parking lot at the bottom end of the trail near the town. Eventually, a restroom is to be built at the head of the trail on top of the Mesa.

Baier said the county is expected to apply for Colorado Lottery grant money through Great Outdoors Colorado next year to help pay for the rest of the trail.

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