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Cortez’s Geer Natural Area may get a new trail next year

City officials plan to buy more land
Keith Evans points out one of the spots where his proposed perimeter trail in Geer Natural Area would run.

On Friday, Cortez parks and recreation advisory committee members toured the land they hope to turn into a new Geer Natural Area trail next year.

Keith Evans, who owned much of the Geer and Carpenter natural areas, plans to sell the city 50 acres of his property, to be used for a new trail around the park’s perimeter. Evans said a new trail could make Geer more friendly to hikers and give all users a more direct route across the park. Parks and Recreation Director Dean Palmquist said the city has tentatively budgeted about $50,000 for the purchase in 2018.

Evans said the different people who regularly visit Geer – primarily hikers, dog walkers and cyclists – have different needs when it comes to trail routes. Walkers in particular, he said, have approached him asking for a quicker path through the park.

“Right now, if you obey the rules of the park and stay on the trail and don’t cut, you’re locked into going several miles of windy, twisty trail to get to the other side,” he said.

He said the new trail could also make it easier for visitors with different interests to share the park. Palmquist reported that after the advisory committee gave permission to the Montezuma County Sheriff’s mounted patrol officers to use the park in September, some people complained the horses were tearing up the plant life by straying from their designated routes.

“If the deputies can take their horses perpendicular to the trails, they’ll eventually damage those trails,” he said. “There’s concern about the plant life, too, that they’ll trample the plants.”

He said he has spoken to the deputies about the problem. In the future, Evans said he hopes the new trail will be a better alternative for the mounted patrol, as well as any other equestrian visitors who might come to the park.

“I think, if they have their own trail, then everybody will be happy,” he said.

In order for the trail to be completed next year, though, Evans said the city will need to do some work on the land. Several fences around the park’s perimeter are several yards away from Evans’ surveyed property line, he said, so they need to be moved to reflect the park’s actual boundaries. He also suggested the city put up signs to mark where the new trail begins and ends.

Evans showed the advisory committee members his planned route for the trail, which would go around the northern and eastern boundaries of the park. The land is part of a conservation easement he was granted in 2016 in cooperation with the Montezuma Land Conservancy, and it includes the newly opened third entrance to Geer, near North Mildred Road.

Although a walking tour of the proposed trail took up most of the committee’s meeting on Friday, the members also approved a letter of support for the city’s proposed Great Outdoors Colorado grant application. The grant would allow the city to purchase the old Montezuma-Cortez High School site in order to turn it into a park. The City Council will vote on the application on Tuesday.

This article was reposted on Oct. 24 to remove incorrect information about the city’s planned purchase of Keith Evans’ property.

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