KONOLA: Support the riverfront; it’s good for you
VOICE OF THE PROGRESSIVE
Free Press Opinion Columnist
Some of my readers may know that I was appointed to the Riverfront Commission a year ago. The seat to which I was appointed was vacated by another commissioner, so my term expires this month. The commission is a nonpartisan group working to enhance the quality of life in Mesa County by developing a trail along the riverfront that gives access to our river to all citizens.
The vision of the founders of the riverfront included outdoor concerts that would bring the community together. Toward that end, an anonymous donor contributed funds to bring nationally known musicians to our valley. Unfortunately, national acts are expensive, so the funds eventually ran out. Whether this free concert series continues is dependent upon the community stepping up with financial support. There are two ways to show your support, buy a ticket to the upcoming Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers concert; and/or make a contribution of $200 or more for the benefit of having tickets to future concerts delivered to your mailbox instead of having to stand in line to get them.
The history of this commission is one that the community really should think about. It is a story of people from different political persuasions working together to make our community work better for everybody. Just one of many examples of working together includes Helen Traylor and Tillie Bishop. Helen Traylor, a Democrat and avid bird watcher, wanted to share opportunities for bird watching along the Colorado River. Tillie Bishop, a Republican noted as a “common sense conservative” carried legislation that made trails possible throughout the state. Helen even managed to get the irrigation companies to allow trails along their canals in the Audubon Section of the trail. When it came time to clean up the riverfront, Tillie and his wife rolled up their sleeves and wrestled things like old mattresses off of Watson Island.
The Riverfront Commission has done a wonderful job of forging a coalition that includes the not-for-profit Riverfront Foundation, the cities of Fruita, Grand Junction and Palisade, and Mesa County. Each of these governments participate in grant writing that brings money to develop the trail system from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). GOCO “uses a portion of Lottery proceeds to preserve, protect and enhance the state’s wildlife, parks, rivers, trails and open spaces.” So, in an indirect way, you can support the Riverfront Trail system by buying lottery tickets. I’ve always considered the lottery as a volunteer tax, and this one supports outdoor spaces for families to enjoy.
None of the trail system has been developed using eminent domain to get property or rights-of-way. All of the property that is included in the current trail system has been purchased with funds generated by the work of the Riverfront Commission and the Riverfront Foundation. There is a continuing need for funds to purchase additional properties as they become available or to secure rights-of-way across property that won’t be sold by its owner, but where access might be allowed.
Another little known fact is that the Urban Trails Committee was created by the Riverfront Commission to work on creating bike paths through the community that eventually connect to the Riverfront Trail. The Urban Trails Committee recently outlined its vision for connecting trails in the communities that have partnered with the Riverfront Commission.
Communities that invest in bike trails enjoy many benefits ranging from increased property values along the trail system, healthier citizens, and reduced air pollution. Given our demographics, a robust trail system is especially beneficial for our community. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Americans age 65 and older are the least active age group in the United States: approximately 35% of those aged 65-74 years and 46% of those aged 75 or older report no leisure-time physical activity at all. Most seniors (80%) have at least one chronic condition, and 50% have at least two. Research has shown that seniors who have healthy lifestyles that include regular physical activity reduce their risk for chronic diseases and have half the rate of disability of those who do not.”
So, ride a bike or walk along the riverfront, and then send a donation to the Riverfront Foundation.
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