Olsson Associates

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New trails bring bikers flocking to Fruita

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Edie Adams, Marketing

The western Colorado city of Fruita is fast becoming a prime spot for mountain biking. A beautiful landscape and an extensive trail system make the area hard to resist. The Mack Ridge Trails near Fruita are the latest addition. They add five new biking trails to the existing and nationally prominent Kokopelli trail system. The town has been working for the last decade with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to improve its trail connections and overall recreational image.

The Mack Ridge Trails are the result of BLM’s new national recreation strategy called “Connecting with Communities.” This strategy aims to involve local government more heavily in the process of development on adjacent public lands, and Fruita is widely regarded as a model for the program.

Olsson performed the biological and cultural resource surveys for the new trails, which are in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area. Resource surveys are a key component of securing approval for trail construction on public lands, especially in desert environments that tend to have fragile soils and many rare and widespread plant species that can prevent trail construction. Olsson’s scope of work included surveys for Threatened and Endangered plant species, as well as several cryptic and difficult-to-identify special status plant species. The firm also accommodated a last-minute request to complete burrowing owl surveys, and worked with the BLM and client throughout the project to modify the proposed designs, minimize impacts, and assure approval.

"The greatest challenge and best opportunity in this project was the need for extensive coordination between the trail designers and the BLM,” said Alex Nees, Olsson project scientist in Grand Junction, Colorado. “Trail designers have a vision of the final product that they want, but that vision doesn’t necessarily mesh easily with the BLM’s need to create environmentally-sustainable trails. And biological or cultural resources can force trails to be moved or altered at late stages in the process.”  

While surveying, Olsson discovered one of the trail alignments was not feasible to construct for several reasons.

“We were able to negotiate solutions to these problems with the BLM and the trail designers, reroute the trail and keep the project on schedule, and simultaneously demonstrate our expertise, flexibility, and dedication to the project,” Nees said. 

The project involved coordination and cooperation between multiple agencies, including the BLM, the City of Fruita and local businesses, Western Colorado Conservation Corps, Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association, the Grand Valley Trail Alliance, and others.

In December 2016, Olsson and all the cooperating agencies attended the grand opening of the first trail segment, named “Wrangler.” At the ceremony, BLM specifically referenced Olsson’s diligent work and project engagement as a key component to completing the trail evaluations. The event ended with the youth crew who built the trail hopping on bikes and testing out their work product, closely followed by most of the attendees. Construction is ongoing on the other four trail segments, and are expected to be finished and open for use in 2017.

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