It has been nearly a decade since the Palisade Plunge Trail was first imagined. This week it is finally becoming a reality as a crew from Singletrack Trails broke ground on the project Monday.
"It feels tremendous," Colorado Plateau Mountain Biking Association (COPMOBA) Board of Directors President Scott Winans said. "COPMOBA is a volunteer organization and we could not have gotten here without all of our partners."
The list of stakeholders who had input in the planning process is long and includes federal agencies like the Bureau of Land Management to local governments in Palisade and Grand Junction, Winans said.
Crews are building the bottom half of the Plunge trail and are working from Lands End Road toward the city of Grand Junction property first. Winans said the work on the city property is being completed first to minimize impacts on a local ranch and hunting guide businesses who use the property.
This part of the project is designated as phase 1, Winans said, and will complete approximately 14 miles of the 32-mile trail, ending near the Palisade Rim Trailhead. Mesa County is also doing preliminary work to add a bike lane to North River Road, which will connect the Plunge trail to downtown Palisade.
The upper portion of the trail will be built using mini-excavators, Singletrack Trails Chief Encouragement Officer Greg Mazu said. The bottom half will be hand-built. Mazu said Singletrack is one of the only trail-building companies in the country to still hand-build trails. Hand-building allows the crews to keep the tread narrower and doesn't require them to move as much material, Mazu said.
Work will continue on the trail for the next several months with a targeted completion date of Dec. 1, Winans said. From Dec. 1 through May 1, construction is not allowed due to a wildlife closure of the upper portion of the trail. Once the phase 1 work is completed, that portion of the trail will be rideable before Dec. 1 and after May 1.
Phase 2 of the project has not yet been funded, Winans said, but Mesa County is preparing to submit a grant application by the end of July to Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) for nearly $2 million to finish the project. GOCO will announce its grant awards in early October. Winans said work on phase 2 could begin shortly after the county receives that grant award.
"We could kick off phase 2 in tandem with phase 1 and continue work into next year," Winans said.
GOCO selected six projects it would consider funding with this round of grants, including the Palisade Plunge Trail. There is $8.5 million available through the GOCO grant program, Winans said, so some of the projects may not receive all the funding they are requesting. Winans said he was "very confident" the county's application will be approved.
Winans said having the trail under construction was exciting, but that the major benefit to outdoor recreation in Mesa County was much larger.
"We're coming out of the back end of this with more engagement," Winans said. "(Because of this project) we have stronger, more vibrant and more broad relationships in the community."
There will be an official groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, July 24, at 10 a.m. at the Palisade Rim Trail.