Updated September 8, 2016 – Author’s note: On September 5, 2016, The Daily Sentinel published a front page story about the possibility of opening up the Orchard Mesa canal banks to public recreational use. The story quoted former Colorado State Representative Tim Foster, now President of Colorado Mesa University, who called landowners’ claims that they fear legal liability from opening the canals to public recreation a “red herring.” Here’s the quote:
[Colorado Mesa University President] Tim Foster…served as a Colorado state representative between 1988 and 1996 and helped carry a bill in the early 1990s that would transfer liability of canal banks to the state, paving the way to combine trails with canals. The law was passed to help complete the current High Line Canal Trail in Denver that spans more than 70 miles, though that ditch doesn’t usually contain much water.
“The bill gave them protections from liability,” Foster said. “The liability argument is a complete red herring. Me and Tillie (Bishop) carried it, and it gives them immunity. At the end of the day, these guys got stuck on not letting anybody on the canals.”
Grand Junction, Colorado area citizens can often be seen walking dogs, running, biking and even cross-country skiing on the beautiful banks of the Grand Valley’s irrigation canals. The maintenance roads along the canals offer expansive vistas, blissful quiet and a feeling of safety for recreators because of the absence of motor vehicles. Newer subdivisions across the valley even have concrete pathways leading straight up onto the canal banks, beckoning residents to take peaceful walks there.
But at the same time signs posted along the canal roads warn that they are “No Trespassing” zones.
So, which is it? Are the canal roads off limits, or is it okay for the public to walk, run or bike on them?
The answer is both, and neither.