Gunnison Bluffs Roundtable Committee forms to create more trails in Grand Junction | PostIndependent.com

Gunnison Bluffs Roundtable Committee forms to create more trails in Grand Junction

Brittany Markert
bmarkert@gjfreepress.com
The Old Spanish Trail, or Gunnison Bluff trails, near Whitewater and Orchard Mesa, is the next location for a large trail project. Local organizations like the Grand Valley Trails Alliance, Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Assocation and Great Old Broads are getting involved. The Gunnison Bluffs Roundtable Committee is currently seeking funding for the project in order to build new trails, preserve the history of the land, and place interpretive signs along the trails.
Elisa Jones |

OLD SPANISH TRAILHEAD

Pre-planning has begun to create a blue print for new trails at Old Spanish Trails, or what is now being called Gunnison Bluffs trail. Currently there are around 20 miles of single and double track available.

The southern trailhead, or Whitewater Trailhead, is easy to find. To get to the Whitewater Trailhead, take the Fifth Street bridge out of Grand Junction for about six miles until you reach the turn for Mesa County Landfill at 31 Road. Turn right and follow the road for about two miles until you reach the trailhead on the right hand side.

More information on the trails can be found at www.gjhikes.com or www.coloradowestoutdoors.com.

The Gunnison Bluffs trails, or also known as Old Spanish Trail, is Grand Junction’s next large trail project. Many locals are coming together to create a financial plan and form a “blue print” of dozens of new trails in the under-developed area.

Hikers, mountain-bikers and horseback riders already enjoy the area already for its secluded feel.

“This will be a multi-year process to build the whole thing,” said Elisa Jones, a member of Grand Valley Trails Alliance and spearhead for the project. “It will be a collaborative effort between many groups like Colorado Plateau Mountain Trail Association, Great Old Broads and Grand Valley Trails Alliance.”

Mesa County had an original master plan set in 1995 to build trails, create designated trailheads, close the land to public motorized vehicles and place interpretive materials along the trails. After no movement since then, the Gunnison Bluffs Roundtable Committee dug up the plans again; then they visited Mesa County’s Board of County Commissioners with the intention to fund the project.

The committee hopes to use that plan, which calls for around 3,000 acres, to create beginner and intermediate trails for hikers, horseback riders and mountain-bikers.

“It’s a blank canvas where we can paint anything we want really,” Jones said. “We hope to have an education destination for kids, as well, to come and learn about the land.”

Current funding needed is around $200,000, which includes money for environmental-impact studies, creating interpretive signs, and trail work. There are also many invasive plant species in the area, which will be removed by local organizations and replaced with native plants.

“A lot of the work will come from volunteers,” Jones explained. “The main goal is to have the community develop the area. It will also increase the quality of life for the Orchard Mesa area with the added recreation available.”

According to Jones, the nine-acre lot at the Orchard Mesa trailhead may also transform into a bike park. Trails may connect to the Riverfront Trail as well, which leads to the Lunch Loop Trail system.

“The idea is to keep the trails secluded,” said Kris Cox, president of COPMOBA. “The folks in Whitewater and Orchard Mesa shouldn’t worry about added traffic.”

He added that the planning committee will be reaching out to surrounding private land owners to hear their input about the proposed trails.

Cox anticipates trail work to begin in 2016.

WHAT’S OUT THERE NOW?

The total land area between Orchard Mesa area and Coffman Road, near the Mesa County Landfill, totals around 20 miles of single and double track trail. Most of the terrain is old jeep and wagon trails, which ventures up and down large hills, with little to no technical obstacles.

One section of trail is part of the Old Spanish Trail, which is seven miles long, and was originally used in the 1820s as a commercial merchant route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. The second trail in Grand Junction was considered the Northern Branch, which ventures from Santa Fe, N.M., through the Grand Sand Dunes National Park and continues west through Saguache, Colo., and ends in Green River, Utah.

Parts of land are now owned by Mesa County, National Park Service and private residents.

The trails are currently open to mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers.

If you are interested in being involved in the planning process or financially contributing to the effort, contact Elisa Jones at elisa@gvtrails.com.


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