Mountain biking touted as a Rifle attraction
Citizen Telegram Editor
Making Rifle a mountain biking destination, adding new directional signage to help visitors locate attractions and relocating the Colorado River boat ramp were among the topics discussed by Rifle City Council and the city’s Visitors Improvement Fund advisory board at a July 9 workshop meeting.
The Visitor Improvements Fund, or VIF, uses money generated by a 2.5 percent lodging tax to make Rifle more attractive to tourists and visitors.
VIF board member Ryan Gilbert said he believed Rifle has a “huge possibility” of becoming a mountain biking destination, if more trails can be developed.
“The JQS Trail is a great place, but there’s tons of trash and shooting going on as you’re riding,” he said. “It’s just like the wild west.”
Gilbert said he had talked to staff at the Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado River Valley Field Office, which manages the area, about making improvements to the area, but felt his efforts were “a waste of time.”
“They said if they catch anyone building or maintaining any new trails, they’d be fined,” he added. “So I don’t know who to turn to. I’d just love to see Rifle become a place like Fruita or Moab, where mountain bikers come from all over. I think we’d be a great stopping point for people from up valley who don’t want to go that far” to Fruita or Moab.
Signs “from one end of town to another”
Railroad Avenue signage would be paid for from VIF reserves, along with the Main Street Rifle program, Downtown Development Authority and a Garfield County Federal Mineral Leasing District grant, Planning Director Nathan Lindquist said. The project would see signs installed “from one end of town to the other” and would also extend a small part of the Rifle Creek Trail to Railroad Avenue and Ninth Street, near Mancinelli’s Pizza. It would also include an outdoor seating area in front of the New Ute Events Center, which might result in the loss of one parking space, he noted.
“It’s a way to complete several other projects we’ve had on the drawing board for some time,” Lindquist said.
VIF board member Keith Lambert, a former mayor and city councilman, said the reserve fund has a balance of around $100,000 and these projects would use about $25,000 of that amount. City Council must approve the approximate $95,000 total expenditure for the signs, trail extension and outdoor seating area.
Boat ramp project awaiting funds
VIF board member Kevin Kelley noted that relocating the Colorado River boat ramp to a more accessible site can lead to further development along the river corridor.
“My understanding is we have all the permits, but we lack the funds,” he said.
City Councilman Dirk Myers asked if backers of moving the boat ramp have any estimate of how many people might use a relocated and improved ramp.
“It’s again a question of need and want,” he said. “There are a lot of things we want, but are they all a need?”
Lambert said he had also questioned the need to relocate the boat ramp for many years, but when the third I-70 interchange roundabout is built, the existing ramp will be removed.
“So if we want to maintain a competitive edge on the river and make Rifle more conducive to rafting and that type of recreation, we need to do this,” he said. “But it’s never been one of my personal priorities.”
City Manager Matt Sturgeon said grants used for projects like this require a local match, and the city has usually provided in-kind labor. However, with the new water treatment plant project looming, he did not see the boat ramp project happening this year or potentially 2015.
Other proposed projects on the VIF drawing board include more public art downtown, a water park in the Colorado River and a bike share program.
“Most of these projects are not fleshed out yet,” Lambert said. “But we think they should be explored and if one doesn’t look like something we really want for Rifle, it can be dropped off.”
Tourism advertising studied
Gilbert said VIF tourism advertising money allocated to the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce to try to attract more visitors had been reduced this year. Previously, up to half of the VIF budget had gone to that purpose, he noted.
“But we haven’t seen or know if we’re getting a true investment of the money,” he said. “So we asked for a third party marketing study to determine where we might want to direct that money so it’s most effective.”
Align Multimedia of Rifle and a Salt Lake City company will conduct a study of local lodging establishments and other businesses, “to see who’s coming to Rifle and why,” Gilbert said.
“We’ve kind of taken a shotgun approach in the past, but we want to have a laser approach to spending this money,” he stated.
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