Businesses help preserve landmark for recreation area

Three Sisters, Grand Junction CO
: Thanks to grants and donations, the Mesa Land Trust has purchased the Three Sisters, a Grand Valley landmark named for three hills located near the Colorado National Monument. The land trust plans to deed the 130-acre property to the City of Grand Junction for use as an area for mountain bicycle riding, hiking and environmental education. (Photo courtesy Mesa Land Trust)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Libby Collins and Mary Hughes gush nearly effusively in describing the business support that’s made it possible to preserve a Grand Valley landmark as a recreational area.

“Having them as part of this project has been spectacular,” said Collins, a coordinator with the Mesa Land Trust.

Hughes, development officer with the Mesa Land Trust, characterized the donors and donations in two words: “absolutely awesome.”

The effort isn’t over, either: Alpine Bank will match up to $12,500 in additional contributions collected through June 30.

Thanks in large part to business contributions large and small, the Mesa Land Trust raised enough money to purchase a 130-acre parcel known as the Three Sisters, a landmark named for three hills that rise up in front of the Colorado National Monument.

The trust will place a conservation easement on the parcel preventing certain types of development and deed the property to the City of Grand Junction.  The city and U.S. Bureau of Land Management will oversee the use of the property for mountain biking, hiking and environmental education.

Until its recent acquisition, the Three Sisters was a privately owned piece of property located adjacent to city and BLM land, including the popular Lunch Loop mountain bike trails near the east entrance of the Colorado National Monument. At one time, a housing development was planned for the Three Sisters property,  Collins said.

When the opportunity arose to purchase the property, the Mesa Land Trust began exploring that possibility. Over its 32-year history, the nonprofit organization based in Grand Junction has helped to protect nearly 100 square miles for agricultural uses, wildlife habitat and open spaces.

The Three Sisters property is important for a number of reasons, Collins said, including its location near the Lunch Loop trails. Moreover, the parcel can serve as a bridge in connecting downtown Grand Junction and the Riverfront Trail to the Lunch Loop trails. That’s not to mention preserving open space and views at the gateway to the monument, she said.

A $675,00 grant from the Great Outdoors Colorado trust, which in turn is funded by proceeds from state lottery games, kicked off the fund-raising effort in a big way, Collins said. The City of Grand Junction agreed to a land swap involving the Three Sisters property and a parcel along the Riverside Parkway, a transaction worth about $500,000, she said.

Another $265,000 was raised from local sources, including businesses, foundations, service clubs and individuals, she said.

Grand Junction Subaru was among the biggest business contributors in donating nearly $20,000 worth of television advertising. More than 340 commercials were broadcast promoting the Three Sisters project.

Ron Bubar, owner of Grand Junction Subaru was not only supportive, but also fun to work with, Hughes said. “He has just been absolutely awesome.”

Norm Franke, president of Alpine Bank in Grand Junction, said the $12,500 challenge grant reflects the bank’s support for recreational activities in Mesa County. “The Three Sisters land parcel is a natural to the already existing trail system enticing people to visit from all over the country. We are very supportive of adding this great asset to our community,” Franke said.

Bank of Colorado contributed $5,000 to the Three Sisters project, while U.S. Bank contributed another $1,000.

Community Hospital awarded $10,000 to the project through the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association.

Several bicycle-related businesses in Grand Junction also participated in fund-raising efforts, Collins said.

Ruby Canyon Cycles raised a total of $8,000 by sponsoring a grant, an open house and donating a $900 bicycle that was auctioned off at a fund-raiser.

“Giving back to the already incredible cycling community here in the Grand Valley is a core part of the business plan here at Ruby Canyon Cycles,” said owner Ryan Cranston. “We work very hard to support existing trails and facilitate the building of new trails that give our community so much opportunity for world-class recreation and our business a reason to exist and, hopefully, prosper.”

Mountain Racing Products contributed $1,810, while DT Swiss donated $1,000 . The two companies also wrote letters of support that resulted in a $5,000 grant.

Jen Taylor with Mountain Khakis and Chris Muhr with All Metals Welding joined with the Rockslide Brewery to host a benefit barbecue that raised $7,000.

Pablo’s Pizza in Grand Junction hosted several events for the Three Sisters project and donated a portion of the profits.

Other major business contributors included Bonsai Design, Chamberlin Architects, FCI  Constructors, Hot Tomato Café and Summit Canyon Mountaineering.

 Collins said business support for the Three Sisters project was important not only in its own right, but also in obtaining grants and connecting with individual donations. “Support just builds upon support.”

With the funding  mostly in place and the property purchased, the next step in the Three Sisters project will be to develop biking and hiking trails and other activities, Collins said.

More beginner and family friendly bike trails are planned for the property, as is an expansion of the Lunch Loop and Tabeguache trail systems nearby, she said. Still more trails will help improve bicycle access from downtown Grand Junction and the Riverfront Trail system.

Because of the dry summer conditions, actual trail construction won’t begin until the fall, she said.

In addition to trails, other uses are envisioned for the Three Sisters property, Collins said. The area also will serve as a natural venue for environmental education. Small signs and a smart phone application have been proposed to offer information about various natural attributes on the property.

The support of businesses has helped to make such efforts possible, Collins said. “We’re really so grateful they stepped in so significantly.”