Rifle citizens want trails. And more trails and more trails. According to a 2016 Community Survey conducted by the ETC Institute, sixty-six percent (66%) or 2,113 households here in Rifle indicated they have a need for a trail system.
“Trails were the number one thing people said they wanted,” according to Nathan Lindquist, Planning Director for the City of Rifle. For several years, the City has made a concerted effort to improve and add to our local trails. Currently, we have over 10 miles of paved and unpaved trails. From the beautiful walk around Centennial Park to the more challenging Rifle Arch, there is something for every ability. The past three years alone have brought us the Morrow Draw Trail running parallel to 9th Street through the woods, Murphy’s Trail which runs from 14th Street to the high school and the trail connecting Whiteriver Avenue to Munro. And we’re just getting started. According to Lindquist, there are several potential projects in the future. He envisions completing the Rifle Creek Trail, finishing work on the Highlands Trail and expanding the area around Rifle Arch to include mountain biking paths.
So how do these visions become reality? The design of new trails is done by both an analysis of aerial maps and by actually going out to the area and walking around. Most local trail money comes from a variety of sources including grants and City and county funding. Volunteers often do much of the actual work. One upcoming project here in Rifle is being coordinated by Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV). According to their website, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers was started in 1995 by a group who “…saw the need for a volunteer organization to work in partnership with the public agencies and municipalities that manage, preserve and protect our public lands”. Each year, they pick a variety of projects upon which to embark. This year, Rifle was one of the areas selected.
Another organization critical in trail building in our area is RAMBO, the Rifle Area Mountain Biking Association. The group’s mission statement is to “promote and advocate mountain biking and trail building in the Rifle, Colorado area”. According to Steven Fuller, “Our vision is to lead our community in building and maintaining quality mountain bike-specific and multi-user trails and to encourage active lifestyles and healthy living through built environment and recreation opportunities on public lands.” Fuller goes on to state that “[w]hile there is a RAMBO board that meets to deal with financial and strategic issues, RAMBO exists primarily as a Facebook page where community members can connect with like-minded recreationists, plan group rides, or learn about trails and upcoming events. Everyone is invited to join”.
Coming up on Saturday, October 13th from 8:30a.m-4:00p.m., the groups will be building a new soft-surface trail near the water treatment plant. This project, currently referred to as the South Graham Mesa Trail Project (it will likely be renamed The Highlands Trails), encompasses roughly 35 acres of diverse topography. There are areas of desert, patches of woods and numerous gulleys. As described by Lindquist, “It’s a lot of trail out of a little piece of ground”. His ultimate goal is to expand the trails in the area by another 20 acres on land adjacent to the plant. That plot will be the site of a new water line, but after those improvements are done, the area could certainly have trails running over the top.
If you would like to help construct these new trails, the meeting spot will be Davidson Park (volunteers can park at the elementary school across the street). This trail is literally blocks away from downtown.
Olivia Deihs, Program Manager for RFOV, states that “[w]e are thrilled to get the chance to provide recreation opportunities for folks right in their backyard! This new trail will be open to all uses – including hiking, biking, and dog walking. Volunteer work will consist of building new trail, light trimming, and constructing erosion structures to keep water from flowing down the trail. This work is best suited for adults and kids 12 years old and up. RFOV always provides pizza, beer, and beverages post-project as way for us to say “thank you!” to our awesome volunteers. Join us to spend the day giving back to our public lands and enjoying hilltop views of the entire valley!”
If you would like to volunteer, please go to the RFOV website to sign-up so they are sure to have enough food and leadership for all: www.rfov.org or https://rfov.salsalabs.org/south_graham_mesa_project_signup/index.html