Land acquisition aims to boost trail network near lunch loops

The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, November 21,2019 — There’s lots of anticipation for the new paved path up Monument Road that soon will connect the prized Lunch Loops trail head with the rest of the city’s path network.

But a recently announced acquisition by the Colorado West Land Trust sets the stage for a paved path up the corridor nearly all the way to Colorado National Monument.

Grand Junction City Council on Wednesday signed off on a lease agreement with the conservation group to manage 16 acres of recently acquired property at the northwest corner of Monument and South Camp roads, a spot already used as open space for informal hiking. Now, the property is envisioned as an end point for a new section of concrete trail that will extend from the Lunch Loops to the existing sidewalk at South Camp Road.

Riders in the know realize that’s just a few pedal strokes from the east entrance of Colorado National Monument.

“(The Monument Road corridor) is a really important showpiece for the community. … Hundreds of thousands of visitors a year are driving up that corridor, in addition to all the community members that use it,” said Rob Bleiberg, Colorado West Land Trust executive director, in an interview with the Sentinel’s editorial board. “There’s been a really amazing investment in the corridor over the last decade as well.”

Following passage of a lease agreement Wednesday on the council’s consent agenda, the two entities will partner on management of the property — now dubbed Jurassic Flats — in the short term, with an eye toward protecting the property via conservation easement and eventual conveyance to the city in the long term.

It’s a similar arrangement as to what happened with properties associated with the new concrete trail area to the north of the Lunch Loops. The trust previously purchased the 130-acre Three Sisters property and two adjacent parcels and deeded all of them to the city for public open space. The organization also acquired numerous rights-of-way to make the new Lunch Loop connector path possible, and has been instrumental in leading a public process to bring recreation improvements to the vital corridor.

The new highly visible stretch of concrete between the Lunch Loops and the rest of the city is expected to be open to riders and walkers by the end of the year.

But the next projected phase will see the concrete path extend all the way to South Camp Road, which is why securing the Jurassic Flats parcel was so critical.

To complete the vision, Colorado West Land Trust has teamed up with the city to pursue acquisition of a strategic 37-acre parcel at 2312 Monument Road. That property is seen as the last critical piece to being able to extend the new paved path south of the Lunch Loops trail head, along a wash that’s east of properties along Monument Road and includes city-owned and Bureau of Land Management property.

“It’s really critical as we look at the future of Mesa County and Grand Junction, and how we’re going to change as tens of thousands of new residents come into our community over the years — what kinds of investments are we making in our community’s future?” Bleiberg wondered, in the context of the Monument Road corridor vision. “We think this is a very important one.”

Article by Duffy Hayes

Photo by Robb Reece