40 Stories in 40 Weeks: Section of Riverfront Trail Acquired on Conserved Property (2006 Reprint)

Ron and Kathleen Arnett on their Clinton farm in the community separator.

(Press Release Reprint: Sept. 2006)–The Mesa Land Trust and Colorado Riverfront Foundation last night announced the acquisition of a critical section of trail right-of-way along the Colorado River east of 32 Road. The right-of-way runs along ¾ of a mile of river frontage and will become a key portion of the trail extending east from Corn Lake State Park to Palisade. No date has been set for trail construction, and the property will not be open to the public until the trail is built.
The trail easement was purchased from Ron and Kathleen Arnett by the Mesa Land Trust, with funding provided by the Riverfront Foundation. The Arnetts had previously granted a conservation easement over their 110 acre farm to the Land Trust as part of the Community Separator Program.

“Because of the conservation easement, future hikers and bikers will be able to travel between the river to the south and a beautiful expanse of irrigated farmland stretching north,” said Rob Bleiberg, the Land Trust’s Executive Director. “This partnership between Mesa Land Trust and the Riverfront Foundation will enable generations of residents to enjoy the Colorado River, one of our most precious natural resources.”

The right-of-way acquisition marks a significant step in extending the existing trail east from its current terminus at Corn Lake. “Due to its size and strategic location, the Arnett property is critical to the future Riverfront trail between Palisade and Clifton,” said Bill Prakken, a board member of both the Riverfront Foundation and the Land Trust. “By acquiring the right-of-way now, we have helped secure the future of the Riverfront Trail in the East Valley. We are pleased to be able to work with the Arnett family to obtain this key segment,” he said.
The Land Trust previously has protected habitat and farmland along the Colorado River corridor, but this project is the organization’s first acquisition of trail right-of-way. “By partnering with the Riverfront Foundation, both organizations have been able to stretch resources and better serve our community,” said Bleiberg. “This is a model we hope to replicate in the future.”

The acquisition was announced last night at Mesa Land Trust’s Open House, celebrating its new office location in the historic Ela House located at 1006 Main Street in downtown Grand Junction. Bill Ela, a founding co-chair of the Riverfont Commission who grew up in the house, was on hand for the announcement.

Kathleen Arnett cuts the ribbon, opening the new section of the Riverfront Trail through their property.

2020 Update: By granting a trail easement through their farm, Ron and Kathleen envisioned creating a place where kids from the Clifton area could safely enjoy the outdoors close to home.

Though Ron passed away in 2009, never seeing the trail’s completion, on August 25, 2010, the community came together to celebrate as Kathleen cut the ribbon opening the new section of trail.

Signs (see photo above) at either end of the property recognize the Arnetts, the Land Trust, and the partners that brought the project to fruition: Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Riverfront Commission, and the Community Separator Project partners (Mesa County, the City of Grand Junction, the City of Fruita, and the Town of Palisade).

Today, Kathleen leases the farm out. On a walk or bike ride through this portion of the Riverfront Trail, you’ll see cattle grazing and corn and alfalfa growing in the fields to the east, where the trail terminates at 33 1/2 Road. Here, the trail adjoins the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway, meandering though the countryside past orchards, vineyards, farm stands, and wineries to Palisade.

We will forever be grateful to the Arnetts for this gift to the community.