Some irrigation canal stakeholders upset with a proposed urban-trails master plan | PostIndependent.com

Some irrigation canal stakeholders upset with a proposed urban-trails master plan

Sharon Sullivan
ssullivan@gjfreepress.com
The Little Bookcliff bridge crosses over the Grand Valley Irrigation canal near Patterson Road
Submitted photo |

PUBLIC HEARING ON GRAND VALLEY TRAILS MASTER PLAN

Tues., Aug. 13, at 6 p.m. & Wed., Sept. 18, at 7 p.m.

Grand Junction City Hall Auditorium, 250 N. Fifth St.

Access the master plan at mesacounty.us, click on “departments,” “regional transportation planning office,” and then “master trails plan.”

Real estate investor Dick Pennington doesn’t like the idea of turning canal roads into urban trails.

Pennington, who grows pasture at one of his properties near 24 and H roads, said he is afraid people would mess with irrigation canal headgates and that public use would scare off wildlife.

“I think it’s terrible,” Pennington, 78, said. “They’ve got the Riverfront Trail; there’s all kinds of trails on Colorado National Monument, and all kinds of trails on BLM land.”

The city is hosting a public hearing Aug. 13 at the Grand Junction City Hall Auditorium, in which city transportation engineer Jody Kliska will give a presentation to the city planning commission on behalf of the Urban Trails Committee and Grand Valley Bikes, asking them to approve an updated Grand Valley Trails Master Plan. On Sept. 18, the plan will be presented to Grand Junction City Council for approval.

“We’re (the city) not going out and grabbing anybody’s property,” Kliska said.

“We’re looking to the future, to what future zoning is going to be. The changes we proposed are tied to what we think the valley is going to look like.”

The Urban Trails Committee was formed and appointed by city council in 1994 to plan for and develop bike lanes, sidewalks and trail connectors as the community grows. The committee was heavily involved with the planning of the Riverside Parkway and 29 Road improvements, in which bike lanes were added to both sites as well as a 10-foot-wide detached sidewalk along the parkway.

First created in 1995, the Grand Valley Trails Master Plan covers the area from 22 to 32 roads, and was last updated and approved by the city in 2001. An updated plan would encompass the entire valley, Kliska said.

“It’s not a canal trails plan, but it includes (some) canal trails and it always has,” Kliska said. “It’s a planning document, not a users map.”

The city’s policy is to ask for an easement only when property is being developed, said city senior planner Lori Bowers.

Cities such as Denver, Albuquerque and Phoenix are examples of where canal companies, landowners and municipalities have worked together to create popular urban trail systems, Bowers said.

The valley’s irrigation canal companies, many of whom have easements on personal property, are largely not in favor of allowing public access on canal roads.

“We’d like to conserve the condition of the canals in their present state,” said Charles Guenther, assistant superintendent at Grand Valley Irrigation Company. “We don’t think we can properly maintain these facilities with the public on them.”

In 2004, the irrigation company, who owns, maintains and controls a system of irrigation canals and ditches in the valley, sued Grand Junction regarding the city’s designation for planning purposes segments of the company’s easements as public trails. The irrigation company contended that those plans would interfere with its operations.

A Mesa County District Court Judge dismissed the case, finding the city has a right to plan, Kliska said.

However, the city made clear during the lawsuit that it would not proceed in opening canal roads to the public without the agreement and understanding with the canal companies, City Attorney John Shaver said. An easement is considered a property right, he said.

One of the goals of the Urban Trails Master Plan, Bowers said, is to help people get to the Riverfront Trail by adding north-south trails throughout the valley.

Urban Trails Committee member Dave Grossman, who is also executive director of the Grand Valley Trails Alliance, said the master plan is a “visionary tool” that provides healthy transportation and recreation opportunities and safe routes for kids to get to schools.

Another stakeholder, Grand Valley Drainage District, could not be reached for comment.


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