Gunnison looking at plans to develop G-Hill for recreation
GUNNISON—A proposal is shaping up to turn Gunnison City’s G-Hill into a managed and maintained recreation area.
At the recent Gunnison City Council, Councilmember Andy Hill went over the plan he had been looking into that was originally proposed by local citizen Curtis Anderson after Anderson had seen a similarly developed area during his out-of-state travels.
Hill told the council he had discovered the G-Hill area is part of state trust lands under the umbrella of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
The councilmember had reached out and met with Lou Brown at SITLA and Hill said Brown told him SITLA was prepared to help subsidize the cost of turning the approximately 1,000-acre area that makes up the G-Hill into a managed recreational area for Gunnison City.
“This is a management plan to develop this area we have at our disposal,” Hill said. “To me, this is an area here in our town that has been historically underutilized. We have kind of just let everyone run wild on it, but never really had a plan to do anything real with it.”
Hill explained that Brown and other SITLA officials agreed to lease the area to the city for development if the city follows the correct process and commits to a share of the cost.
To lease and develop the area, the state requires an archeological survey to see if the plan would be destroying anything important or historical, says Hill. That survey would cost $36,000, but Hill said his SITLA contacts agreed to subsidize $28,500 of the survey cost if the city cover’s the remaining $9,500.
Hill went on to explain there would also be a one-time $1,200 application fee to process the lease application and an ongoing $10,000 yearly lease cost, half of which the state has agreed to pay out of an ATV-related recreation fund the state maintains.
“I am certain we can do things to offset the cost to the city,” Hill said, “but I think our share of the lease payment, $5,000, is a pretty feasible amount to get 1,000 acres to turn into a recreational asset for our town.”
Hill elaborated his vision for the plan for the mayor and his fellow council members.
“First and foremost, let’s clean up the area,” said Hill. “For years it was a dumping ground. People would go up there and dump their trash. A lot of that trash has just hung around and so the first part of the plan, should we lease the land, would be to go out and really clean it up.”
Hill then explained the second part of the plan would involve developing an actual trail system and implementing some management practices.
“Lots of people take their ATVs and bikes and dogs up there and hike around,” Hill said. “There is a lot of activity that takes place up the G-Hill, but it’s never really been managed in any way. We’ve always just used it and abused it, so to say.”
The third major part of the plan is getting the community involved, said Hill.
“If there is one central landmark here, it’s the G-Hill,” said Hill. “Last night I went and talked to some Boy Scouts, and asked them how many have been on the G-Hill. Everyone had; its almost a rite of passage around here.”
Hill added, “We need to figure out what is the best way to do this. Is it through community fundraising? Is it through tax dollars? I don’t know, but we would need to figure that out.”
In the closing part of his proposal to the council, Hill said the final and perhaps most important component is how the city would use this property to bring people to the Gunnison Valley.
“How do we market this asset?,” Hill asked. He said that one of the visions that Anderson had from his original suggestion that the city develop the G-Hill into a managed recreation area was specific to the mountain biking community, but Hill said he felt there were likely many other options to consider as well.
“I think if we do some development and some marketing it could provide some opportunities for events that would bring people to the valley and increase the economic development,” said Hill.
According to Hill, the continued access to the G-Hill for people with ATVs and other OHVs has been a sticking point with some the citizens he has spoken with about the proposal.
“ATVs have always been a fixture on the G-Hill, and I think we have to maintain that,” Hill said. “I have had people tell me ‘you want to shut out all the ATVs’ and that’s not true. In fact, the state has agreed to subsidize some of the lease payments, but ATVs have to be allowed in the area to get that help because part of their funding comes from an ATV-related recreation budget.”
Hill told the council that he thought the plan should eventually be turned over to a committee made up of residents, along with a representative from the city council.
“The way that I view this is that it be a community project,” said Hill. “Let’s reach out to some of our church, school and scout organizations and say ‘here are some projects you can be involved in.’ I think people will become invested in it and want to help make it a reality. I do anticipate there would be some involvement from the city as well. This is a part of our community, and we need to keep it up nice.”
Gunnison City Mayor Bruce Blackham asked Hill if SITLA would prevent the city from collecting any fees towards helping manage the area. Hill told the mayor that, with the lease, the council could charge any fees they wish, according to his SITLA contacts.
“It’s pretty much at our discretion,” Hill said.
Blackham asked Hill what the city needed to pay to move forward with the proposal. Hill told him the initial amount that would be required to start the process is $10,700.
Hill said he believes there will be grant opportunities down the road to help the further development of the area, but the initial monies to proceed are going to have to come from city funds.
“Everything is ready in place to move forward if the city is prepared to pay their share,” said Hill. “All we have to do to move forward with the plan is to make a decision on the funding and we can get started. Until then, all we can do is some basic planning that won’t accomplish much more at this point.”
Blackham said he felt it was important to inform the residents of Gunnison about the possible project before making a decision on the funding to move forward. The council agreed to schedule a public hearing on the matter, and Hill said, in the meantime, he will pursue some other potential funding options.