‘Pollinator garden’ planned for Watson Island

Sharon Sullivan
Western Colorado Conservation Corps members have planted 1,364 native shrubs and grasses for a native arboretum and pollinator garden at Watson Island. From left: Jocelyn Keller, 16, Alejandro DiGregorio, 17, and Jaxton Kahl, 17, are shown planting a shrub on Monday.
Sharon Sullivan / | Free Press

Water flows through four acres of Watson Island, entering the property from the Colorado River at the Orchard Mesa pedestrian bridge and dumping back into the river below the Fifth Street bridge.

Soon a native arboretum will be planted at the site to take advantage of the natural water source.

After studying the Las Colonias Park revised Master Plan, various stakeholders including the Lions Club, the Tamarisk Coalition, the Botanical Gardens, the Riverfront Commission, the disc golf association and members of the general public came away with a plan to plant native grasses and shrubs to enhance educational opportunities in the area, said Traci Wieland, City of Grand Junction recreation superintendent.

“We want to show what’s possible on the Western Slope,” Wieland said. “The Tamarisk Coalition is donating 1,700 native plants.”

It’s also being referred to as a “pollinator garden” as some plants will be chosen specifically to attract butterflies and bees — an idea adopted because of the Grand Valley’s agricultural base, Wieland said.

The city has applied for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to begin phase one of the project (following the planting of the donated 1,700 native plants). If awarded the grant, organizers will begin construction early summer 2014.

Plans include a restroom/shelter combination, trail connections throughout the 101-acre Las Colonias property, and installing additional plants and signage.

Watson Island’s native arboretum will eventually adopt features of the tree arboretum at Lincoln Park, Wieland said.

The Lincoln Park arboretum includes 69 different types of trees with placards containing the trees’ common and botanical names. Visitors can also scan a quick-response bar code to watch a video to learn more about the plants.

The arboretum project is one aspect of the city’s plan to develop Las Colonias park, an area north of the Colorado River, south of the Riverside Parkway, and east of the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.

According to the city website, the property was once home to migrant workers during the 1920s. From 1950-1970, the property was used to dump toxic uranium mill tailings. The land was deeded over to the city in 1997, after a cleanup of the property.

To view a conceptual design of the project, visit and click on parks and recreation projects.

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