Palisade Plunge Trail
Grand Junction Field Office
2815 H. Road
Grand Junction, CO 81506
Thank you for your quick and detailed response to our request for an update on the Palisade Plunge Project. It is unfortunate that the BLM did not receive any comments from the motorized community on the Palisade Plunge Trail (Perhaps the future public outreach process can better identify and notify a broader cross section of potential users and affected citizens). The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) along with Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition (COHVCO) did indeed submit comments to Great Outdoors Colorado on April 21, 2017 and a copy of those comments are provided with this letter.
We believe that the TPA understands and appreciates the political climate and emphasis associated with the Palisade Plunge Trail Project along with the prominence placed on the Colorado the Beautiful “16 in 2016”. However, we strongly feel that the idea of a single user group recreation trail, with limited accessibility and projected use and a relatively high cost (e.g., NEPA cost, actual construction costs, ongoing maintenance costs) is not the best use of funds from any source. Our concern expands on this issue when the more than $3million project cost is recognizing as exceeding the amount that the trails program has available for all other non-motorized projects in the state. This project, as currently planned, lacks any consideration for multiple-use recreation and users of motorized means. Proceeding with this project with a single, primary use by one particular user group is discriminatory and will certainly foster resentment and poor relationships with other user groups.
Nationally, years ago land managers and the motorized community collectively resolved that segregation and discrimination was a policy that was iniquitous and should no longer be tolerated and fostered, yet the Palisade Plunge Project, as currently planned, seeks to do just that. The Grand Junction Field Office has a unique opportunity to set an example to shift from an attitude and policy of segregating users and providing infrastructure for select user groups at the cost of others, to providing a true multiple-use trail for a diverse spectrum of users. We would offer that the landscape is just no longer big enough to offer trails and associated infrastructure dedicated to unique, distinct or small user groups (i.e. hikers, mountain bikes, equestrians, motorized users, etc.).
The concept of a trail that offers financial and economic assistance to area towns and a private ski area is certainly admirable and honorable. However, this same project, with some relatively minor modifications to construct a true multiple-use trail, could be an exceptional opportunity to expand and compound those same positive economic impacts by embracing a broader and more diversified set of users. A recently completed study commissioned by the COHVCO and the TPA has shown an annual contribution of $2.3 billion to Colorado’s economy from tourism and sales activity directly associated with off-highway vehicle recreation (https://www.coloradotpa.org/2017/01/25/economic-contribution-of-off-highway-vehicle-recreation-in-colorado/).
The TPA would also like to offer that the non-motorized users of the Grand Junction Field Office’s area, most notably the mountain bike community, has benefited significantly from the expenditure of State of Colorado OHV grant dollars on true multiple-use trails throughout the Field Office’s areas. To move forward with this Palisade Plunge Project, with a primary use of mountain bikes and other non-motorized users would be prejudicial and discriminatory to the motorized users in your community and those served by your Field Office. Many of those same motorized users have worked diligently over the past several years with the Grand Junction Field Office to obtain and expend hundreds of thousands of dollars within the Field Office’s area, all the time sharing those trails with all non-motorized users. If the Palisade Plunge Project were designed to be a multiple-use trail, Colorado OHV grant dollars could possibly be used for construction and future maintenance.
We also feel compelled to point out that trails and infrastructure for bicycles, especially mountain bikes have been escalating throughout the State despite somewhat flat, and in some instance declining per capita sales and use. Non-motorized trails, primarily used by mountain bikes, have proliferated both officially and unofficially on public lands, as you are very much aware of. Similarly, many if not most commercial ski areas are also adding trails for mountain bikes to their footprints without those trails and opportunities ever being captured by the Federal Land Manger’s inventory, maps or Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) analysis. Therefore we challenge that the Palisade Plunge Project is just one more addition to an already burgeoning inventory of trails for a small, select and declining demographic, a trail without a dedicated source to fund its construction or maintenance; all the while at the expense and exclusion of countless other users of public lands. We would also offer that the expected growth in e-bike sales will soon be a major recreational activity that must be recognized, positioned on and apportioned some ration of the landscape in addition to the myriad of existing activities. Will e-bikes simply be relegated to historic motorized trails (e.g., Moab), a prescription we believe is inappropriate, undesirable, and inappropriate or will e-bikes be allowed on trails like the Plunge?
The TPA appreciates the motorized recreation that the Grand Junction Field Office’s has helped develop to date. However, we feel a couple of issues deserve our perspective. Many of the, multiple-use/motorized examples you mentioned have been in the works for years, and are just now being approved and funded. We sincerely appreciate these projects and all of the efforts by your staff to bring these projects to fruition. However, we feel compelled to point out that all of these projects are multiple–use trails and projects and will be available to all user groups. While projects like the Palisade Plunge Project are for a very small, exclusive user group. The TPA staff and volunteers have ridden most of the areas you mentioned, and also most of the new areas east of Gateway in the former uranium mining areas. In fact we rode and inventoried this area in detail with the BLM staff as they were mapping and gathering data for the Resource Management Plan
Once again, we emphasize that the Grand Junction Field Office has the opportunity to establish a new paradigm for the coexistence of trail users and promoting tolerance and diversity of users. Instead of excluding users, a broader spectrum of trail users will benefit if the Grand Junction Field Office will work with vigor and diligence to encourage an attitude of cooperation and tolerance among all user groups. The planning for the Palisades Plunge Project needs to step back in order to be more inclusive and provide an opportunity for all user groups to include motorized use. The most expedient path forward in our judgment would be to develop this new trail in a way that it is truly “multiple purpose” and will provide shared opportunities for all users, non-motorized and motorized alike.
We thank you for considering our comments.
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance