Green River looks at trail system to draw visitors
Aside from its famous watermelons, the world-class cheeseburgers at Ray’s Tavern and the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, the city of Green River is largely considered a pit stop on the way to other Utah adventures.
A new system of up to 50 miles of hiking, biking and boating trails being planned in and around the Emery County town might give would-be re-fuelers a reason to stick around.
"The idea for trails around town, particularly to Crystal Geyser, have been around for a long time," said Jack Forinash, co-director at Epicenter, a nonprofit community resource organization in Green River. "People have wanted a way to experience the river, but it was always kind of on the back burner. We needed some momentum."
Staffers from Epicenter drove to Crystal Geyser, a cold-water carbon dioxide geyser, in 2009 and then hiked back to town along the Green River. They created architectural renderings and then waited for the trail to be completed.
"We naively thought if we made the renderings that it would just happen," Forinash said. "It didn’t."
Enter Marcy DeMillion, community planner for the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.
DeMillion was at a meeting this past spring talking about how her office provides trail and restoration planning, design and implementation assistance to communities, counties and nonprofits across the country, even if they are not directly connected to a national park. A supporter of the Green River trails idea approached DeMillion, who is based in Salt Lake City, and asked if she could help.
"They really want to work on this trail system for economic development and to provide recreation opportunities in and around Green River," DeMillion said. "They are a small rural community and we like to spread out between rural and urban communities. They also had a good start in the planning."
DeMillion said her Utah office is currently working on four active projects ranging from Willard City to West Jordan. Five new projects, including the one in Green River, were selected in 2013 and range from Uintah County to South Salt Lake.
The Green River Trail System would use the John Wesley Powell River History Museum, located on the banks of the Green, as the centerpiece, with trailheads for town trails leading to "Greater Area" trails and, of course, a river trail with boat launches.
The proposed trails in town lead to Green River State Park, Monument Hill (the funky cubed art monument) not far from Interstate 70 and City Hall, among others. The Greater Area Trails stretch for miles to natural features such as Crystal Geyser to the south, the Destroyer, Blue Castle Submarine and Battleship Butte formations to the northwest, and Swasey’s Beach and the Old Spanish Trail to the northeast. The river trail would start at the museum and head south to the geyser.
"We already have people using the river," Forinash said. "People like to float it in inner tubes."
The city of Green River is hoping the longer bike trails will attract some of the army of mountain bikers heading through town on their way to Moab.
While the trails are still being visualized, a project with the University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning has already led to the creation of "Moments of Pause" functional artworks including benches, platforms and interventions along one of the existing trails.
The Green River City Council met Nov. 12 and created a trails committee to keep the project moving forward. Part of that process will be securing funding for the system.