While the snow is flying on Grand Mesa, work behind the scenes on the Palisade Plunge continues with search-and-rescue planning and monitoring and maintenance plans moving forward.
Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (COPMOBA) President Scott Winans said the Mesa County Search and Rescue team was able to complete a walk-through of the trail and determined that there is adequate access for them to service the Plunge.
“On the organizational side, one great step is the Mesa County Search and Rescue got through their work late in the season last year and have indicated that they have what they need and they consider the route accessible from a search-and-rescue perspective,” Winans said.
This was a key step, as having a search and rescue team available to respond to emergencies on the trail is critical for having it safely opened to users. Winans said there is still work on the search-and-rescue side ongoing, but the determination means the county will participate in search-and-rescue activities on the trail.
“They understand the route access,” Winans said. “They have been up there physically in multiple ways. They’ve have search-and-rescue folks on the trail evaluating various aspects, evaluating transit time and what the terrain is like between certain points of access.”
The monitoring and maintenance plan will likely be finished this winter, Winans said. COPMOBA has commitments from businesses to help fund ongoing maintenance of the trail, but Winans said keeping the trail well-maintained will be an ongoing effort.
“We’re all enthused about this project coming to the very final stages and getting the construction complete,” Winans said. “The maintenance and the maintenance funding is a forever project and we are constantly seeking participation from the community to help us monitor and maintain the project and financial contributions are always beneficial.”
Winans said anyone who wants to contribute to the Palisade Plunge maintenance should contact COPMOBA.
Winans said the final work on the trail will take place once the snow has melted and wet conditions have subsided this spring. He said there are a small number of projects to complete, such as improving stream crossings.
“The general anticipation is there is a small number of weeks of work to get all of that stuff wrapped up, probably in the three to five weeks of work range,” Winans said. “It is basically predicated on when physical access can begin up there and things are dry enough to work.”
Once the construction is complete, it will be up to the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to determine when the trail can open to the public, Winans said. He said it is unclear if the lower half of the trail could open before the top half is finished, but that COPMOBA would advocate for that, if they thought it was appropriate.
Winans said a celebration near the time that the trail will open is being planned.
“The community has waited for this for a long time and participated in a lot of ways emotionally and financially and time wise,” Winans said. “I think everybody is looking forward to going, ‘Woohoo this baby is done. Let’s go out and hit it!’ ”