By Sarah Brooks
With the vast number of trails, open space, and recreational opportunities in the Grand Valley, it is no surprise that another trail has been added to the map. This time, the trail was designed specifically to meet the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to give those with disabilities more access to the outdoors and our public lands. The Bureau of Land Management was able to obtain funding to design and build an ADA accessible trail in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area of Fruita.
The new trail is one-mile round trip, starting from the Fruita Paleo Area in McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, leading to the historical Skinner Cabin. According to the Loyd Files Research Library with the Museums of Western Colorado, John Skinner, a former stonemason of Fruita, built the old stone cabin sometime between 1905 and 1910. The last known resident of the cabin was John Condon, a World War I veteran, who inhabited the cabin in the early 1940s until 1953 when health conditions made it too difficult to continue to stay in the old Skinner home. Between 2016 and 2017, there was a restoration project at the site to help preserve the history of the cabin for future generations.
On Thursday, October 24, the BLM hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the project partners, inviting a few children in wheelchairs and their families to cut the ribbon. Speakers at the event included Collin Ewing with the BLM, Rob Gay of Colorado Canyons Association, and Kathy Lyn a teacher at Fruita Middle School. Kathy Lyn has been a teacher in Mesa County since 1990; during the ribbon-cutting, Kathy gave a wonderful message about inclusive recreation.
“I have seen students and families left out of a variety of activities that take place in the outdoors due to accessibility. This trail offers a way for families with members that have unique mobility abilities to get outdoors to a spot with beauty, history, and be surrounded by nothing but nature. It allows all involved to drink in the experience of the wild! I am grateful to all the agencies for collaborating to make this happen.”
After the ribbon-cutting, attendees were invited to explore the new trail. The younger attendees were grinning ear to ear as they made their way onto the trail, knowing they had a beautiful outdoor space to recreate with their families.
Overall, the project was a collaborative effort between the BLM, Museums of Western CO, and School District 51. Other important partners in the management of the Fruita Paleo Area and the Skinner Cabin include the Colorado Canyons Association, the City of Fruita, and Mesa County.
The trail is wide enough for a person in a wheelchair to maneuver, and the gradient is very gradual, making it easy for individuals with hip or knee problems to be able to hike. It is also an ideal trail for little ones, as the trail is a perfect length and kids enjoy seeing the old stone cabin. Dogs are also welcome on the trail, but must be leashed due to the historical significance of the site.
For more information about the Fruita Paleo Area visit the BLM field office website or for info about McInnis Canyons and trail maps visit Colorado Canyons Association.
Sarah is the Mobility Manager for the Mesa County Regional Transportation Planning Office (RPTO).