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New single track on the Grand Mesa

Sharon Sullivan
Grand Junction correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photoA rider tests out the new Flowing Park Trail on the Grand Mesa outside of Grand Junction.
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DELTA, Colo. ” A group of unlikely collaborators recently joined forces to flex their muscle on the Grand Mesa in western Colorado. The result is a new single-track trail hugging the mesa rim north of Delta.

Mountain bikers, horseback riders and the U.S. Forest Service all played a role in constructing the Flowing Park Trail near Land’s End Road.

“It’s a gorgeous trail. You can look out toward the San Juan Mountains and the Uncompahgre (plateau),” said Chris Muhr, president of the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association. “It’s 10,000 feet on a beautiful flat plateau. It’s the coolest thing.”

The trail is located on the southwest edge of Grand Mesa, or 5 miles south of Land’s End Road and Highway 65 on the Mesa ” a point west of Grand Junction and north of Cedaredge and Delta.

Formed in 1989, the mountain bike trail group develops and maintains trails on the Colorado Plateau. COPMOBA built the 138-mile Kokopelli Trail, from Loma, Colo. to Moab, Utah. The group also built the Tabeguache and Paradox trails.

Dan Antonelli, a COPMOBA board member, approached the U.S. Forest Service about building the Grand Mesa trail and learned it was already in their management plan to build a trail in the area.

Lorin Paulson, district recreation manager for the Forest Service, mapped out the route in the early 1990s when mountain biking was first becoming popular.

“I took a video and identified it back then as a potential route to provide a good mountain bike experience,” Paulson said.

But there was no federal money to build the trail and for years the idea sat on the shelf.

About five years ago COPMOBA shifted its interest from trail construction primarily on Bureau of Land Management lands to Forest Service lands. Antonelli approached Paulson, searching for additional mountain biking routes. Paulson took out his map and “dusted it off.”

Volunteers started working on the trail four years ago after biological and cultural assessments were completed. The trail is about 16-18 inches wide and about 15 miles long.

“The logistics are huge, and the days are big,” Antonelli said of the trail construction.

Recently, he and a couple of other COPMOBA members, Kevin Foote and Barney Barnett, decided to set up camp in the area, advertise for volunteer help and see how much trail they could build in 10 days. About 20 volunteers assisted in the effort.

In a somewhat unlikely alliance, Backcountry Horsemen joined forces with the mountain bike association by providing support. On July 4 and 5, the horsemen packed in a large tent, stoves, tools and personal gear to the trail builders’ base camp, 4 miles from the staging area.

The horseback riders resupplied the volunteers with water and, at the conclusion of the work, packed out the tent, the big stove and personal gear. The Forest Service also hauled in water and tools to the volunteers.

Horse people, bicyclists and other trail users have not always gotten along, noted Neil Mutzbauer, who’s in charge of the trail committee for Backcountry Horsemen. “Each group has its own agenda,” he conceded.

“Joint efforts are to our advantage. We need to maintain trails, but we can’t do it all ourselves,” Mutzbauer added. “So far it’s been a very good working relationship.”

The new trail, once completed, will loop all around the Flowing Park Indian Point peninsula on the Grand Mesa. About 1.5 miles of the trail remains to be built.

“It’s a very nice trail,” Mutzbauer said. “One side looks at the Delta area, and the other (overlooks) Kannah Creek and Mesa County. It’s a beautiful area.”

The trail can be reached by driving across Grand Mesa on Highway 65 to Land’s End Road. A mile-and-a-half down Flowing Park Road is a gate where the trail starts.

The average person would probably not be comfortable hiking the area until a map is published and signs are installed, Antonelli said.

“There are some posts on the Indian Point Trail, but not on the Flowing Park Trail,” Antonelli said. “There are lots of cow trails.”

Once the Forest Service determines enough work has been completed on the trail, it will make adjustments to the map and provide signage in the area. The Forest Service is also seeking grant money to assist in completing the trail as well as to construct a connector trail from Highway 65 to Flowing Park Trail.

The continuous work and determination of the mountain bike association is impressive, Paulson said.

“And it’s very impressive that the Backcountry Horsemen has volunteered to provide support,” Paulson said. “Kudos to the groups working on it.”

ssullivan@gjfreepress.com


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