The Outdoor Recreation Coalition circulated questions to all of the candidates for office to understand their position, plans, and perspective on Outdoor Recreation in the Grand Valley. The Outdoor Recreation Coalition has chosen to not endorse a candidate, but rather to provide citizens of Grand Junction an opportunity to have a clearer understanding of the positions of the candidates. If you feel that outdoor recreation is an important part of the future of Grand Junction, please let this questionnaire help guide your votes.

There are four questions. (click on a question to see the candidates’ responses).

We did not receive responses from Greg Haitz, Mark McAllister, Jody Green or Kraig Andrews.

1. What do you see as the role of Outdoor Recreation in the future of Grand Junction’s economy? How will you be a leader in promoting the Outdoor Rec industry?
Rick Taggart – District A

The Outdoor Recreation industry is vital to the Grand Junction Economy, both present and future. As a former co-owner of an outdoor company, that was founded here in Grand Junction, I fully understand how important it is to have a company located within a community that has significant outdoor recreation assets. For the owners, managers and employees of these companies Grand Junction is a perfect blending of work and play. As well, a location of this nature adds credibility to product development because of the ability to test product innovation in the environment where the product will be utilized by outdoor enthusiasts.

To promote Grand Junction as a future home of Outdoor Recreation Companies the City, through our tourism office, Visit Grand Junction, needs to continually promote our location as an outdoor mecca. There is a branding and marketing campaign in development that features our outdoor landscapes. Many times, visitors and guests of our community create the word of mouth that leads to owners examining our community for re-location.

Continuing to support our economic partners, most notably the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, to assist with their recruiting efforts is vital. As a Council Member and former Mayor, I led the formation of a sustainable fund to assist in these recruiting efforts. We as Council Members also need to make ourselves available to help GJEP in these recruiting efforts.

We need to continue our support of Colorado Mesa University and its students. In many cases young entrepreneurs are catalysts for startup outdoor ventures. Funds for scholarships and programs are key to this support, I have championed this cause in my tenure on Council.

Last, we need to help by listening and acting on infrastructure deficiencies that exist within our community. The solutions to transportation and customs issues are complicated, but we need to be at the table as a partner to develop long term solutions.

Dennis Simpson – District D

Outdoor recreation has always been and will always be a major factor in the lives of the people who live here and as a major attraction for our very important tourist industry.  The City’s main role in supporting this vital industry (and other industries) is to maintain a high quality municipal infrastructure to make Grand Junction an attractive and liveable city, and to continue collaborating with organizations like the Chamber and GJEP to attract and retain quality businesses of all types, including outdoor recreation businesses.

Abe Herman – District E

As an avid mountain biker, climber, skier, hiker, camper, and general outdoorsman, it’s not just lip service when I say I believe in the outdoor recreation industry’s importance—I truly understand the benefits our outdoor spaces provide, and also their potential to further our community’s success. The outdoor recreation industry is a huge driver of spending, manufacturing, and jobs in Colorado and around the nation. Given the amazing place we live in, we should be doing everything we can to harness that success for our community’s benefit now and in the future.

I would like to build on the successes that organizations like GJEP, the Business Incubator, the Chamber of Commerce, COPMOBA, the Outdoor Recreation Coalition and other local groups have already begun. We should provide support for those outdoor-oriented businesses that wish to relocate here, as well as the homegrown businesses that are looking to broaden their reach.

Randall Reitz – District At-Large

Outdoor recreation is a major driver of the economies of Grand Junction, Mesa County, and the State of Colorado. A 2014 study by Southwick Associates for Colorado Parks and Wildlife assessed that outdoor recreation was a $34.5 billion industry in Colorado. At that time, the industry supported over 313,000 jobs, produced $12.4 billion in wages, and $4.5 billion in tax revenues. As this study is now 7 years old, these numbers have undoubtedly grown–perhaps doubling.

I will strongly support initiatives and decisions which promote expanding access to outdoor recreation for community members, including the current city initiatives to complete the riverfront trail from Palisade to Loma, build outdoor spaces at Las Colonia, and to build a recreation center.

I am a lifelong enthusiast of outdoor recreation, including trail running, mtn biking, hiking, paddle board, rafting, skiing, and snowshoeing. I have played a prominent role with the high school mtn bike teams over the last 4 years. I will continue to be a visible advocate for outdoor recreation and will make this a central tenet of my leadership on City Council.

2. Mesa County is made up of 77% public lands. Please describe the importance of our public lands to the economy in Grand Junction and the Grand Valley. What role do these public lands play in the future of our community?
Rick Taggart – District A

Our public lands are at the foundation of this community, they are our inspiration and our playground. For many business owners and managers, they are reason that the companies either formed or relocated here. These assets need to be protected for our lifestyles, as well as, for future generations. I cannot imagine what Grand Junction would be without these magnificent landscapes.

Dennis Simpson – District D

The public lands are very important to our economy and to the future of our area. This land is used by a variety of people for a variety of forms of recreation. When people come here to recreate, they spend money in our hotels, restaurants, and shops. The proximity of public lands to our community is part of why people live her which spurs development and economic growth.

Abe Herman – District E

Our access to public lands is essential to the incredible quality of life we enjoy here in Grand Junction. Whether you’re a hunter, angler, biker, hiker, camper, or anyone else who enjoys spending time outdoors, almost all of that time is spent on public lands. It’s part of our happiness, our sense of place, our health, and our overall well-being.

Beyond that, the lifestyle enabled by our public lands is a large part of what draws businesses and workers to our area. In that way, the availability of and access to public lands in the Grand Valley is essential to the modern, continually diversifying economy that has been carefully nurtured here over the last few decades. Our public lands are also part of the vibrant tourism industry here, attracting visitors who contribute significantly to the local economy.

Moving forward, as we further diversify and bolster our economy in Grand Junction, the quality of life enabled by our public lands will build a bright future for our community.

Randall Reitz – District At-Large

My family has deep connections to the public lands of Mesa County. My grandfather, Bob Reitz, moved here 77 years ago to work on public lands. He was a civil engineer who built bridges and dams on the Grand Mesa with the U.S. Department of the Interior. Grandpa Reitz taught me to love fishing, hiking, and camping. My father, Paul Reitz was born at St Mary’s Hospital, the same hospital as my children, and the same hospital system for which I’ve worked for 20 years. I brought the Reitz family back to Grand Junction for an internship, but have remained here for 20 years due to my love of public lands.

Like me, many of our local citizens choose to live here, build our businesses here, and relocate our businesses here, because we value the immediate access to the trails, rivers, lakes, and mesas of the Grand Valley.

Natural beauty and outdoor recreation are inextricably linked in Grand Junction. For example, in the North Star Survey, the top 2 descriptors that were used to describe Grand Junction were a “beautiful setting” (33%) and “outdoor recreation” (28%). This perspective is shared by community leaders who ranked promoting outdoor recreation/sports as the top area Mesa County should target to improve the community (48%). Given this, increased support for outdoor recreation requires advocating for protecting and expanding our public lands.

3. What are the three most important things we need right now to make Grand Junction and the Grand Valley a vibrant and healthy place for young families and growing businesses?
Rick Taggart – District A

I will point out the 3 most important things from my perspective, but in the case of primary and secondary education, this requires efforts from District 51 and the citizens of the community.

  1. Our primary and secondary education system needs to improve within the community. Parents must be confident that the education system prepares their children for the rigors of higher education and prosperous careers. One of the continuing shortfalls in our education system is funding. To correct this, our citizens need to be engaged and be willing to supplement existing funding mechanisms.
  2. Our growth in the valley needs to be intelligent growth. We have recently completed a Comprehensive Plan for the community to help guide growth. This plan was developed with the input of the community at large over a 2-year period. To protect our quality of life we need to avoid urban sprawl, which creates transportation bottlenecks while stressing infrastructure. Urban density and redevelopment within the core of city helps take advantage of existing infrastructure while encouraging multimodal transportation. The plan also identifies the need for more dedicated green space and recreation assets.
  3. The City needs to continue to invest in infrastructure in the areas of transportation, public safety, and recreation assets. Our citizens have been supportive of these investments by approving ballot items for transportation improvements and public safety. Most likely, this fall, we will be asking the community for support of a Community Recreation Center. Quality infrastructure is critical both to young families and businesses.
Dennis Simpson – District D
  1. We need to maintain a strong infrastructure that will support the influx of people and businesses that will continue to move here.
  2. We need to keep Mesa County a safe place for young families and others to live.
  3. We need to maintain a quality school system.
Abe Herman – District E
  1. Better schools and public safety: If we want to keep and attract younger entrepreneurs and workers who have or are planning to raise families here, we need to have a great school system so that they know their children will have the best possible educational opportunities, and we need to have a community where all residents feel comfortable and safe.
  2. Better and more trails: Walkability and bikeability will positively shape the Grand Junction of the future. This can help stave off road congestion, increase the health of our community, and make Grand Junction a safer place to live. Additionally, we need to be looking outside of town at more recreational opportunities for places to play; as our community grows, our trails and outdoor spaces will become more crowded. We need to get ahead of the curve, and ensure that we work with our public lands partners to plan for our future needs.
  3. More youth programs: If we want our young people to be healthy, appreciate our outdoor spaces, and prioritize their stewardship, we need to expose them to outdoor activities from a young age. We have a lot of great programs in this vein, but there’s always room for more, and especially for underserved populations. I volunteer a significant amount of my time as a board member for Friends of Youth and Nature (FOYAN), creating opportunities for Western Slope youth to get outdoors and get involved, because I truly believe in the importance of making the outdoors accessible to our young people.
Randall Reitz – District At-Large
  1. Obviously, right now, the most important way to promote healthy families is to finish our work in controlling the spread of the Corona Virus in our community. This requires following the excellent work of the Mesa County Public Health and other partners. This also requires achieving at least 70% vaccination rates by this summer.
  2. Improving schools, supporting teachers, and increasing school choice for families. In my research with local businesses and local leaders, the quality of education has almost always been listed as the number 1 obstacle to attracting new families and new businesses to our valley.
  3. Increasing access to outdoor recreation among the diverse demographics of our valley. For example, in 2020, the group The Cycle Effect, expanded their services to Mesa County and have been promoting mtn biking among minorities and low-income families.
4. Reports show that the outdoor recreation economy is 4% of the GDP in the US. In Colorado alone, the outdoor recreation economy generates $62.5 billion annually and provides 511,000 jobs. What actions will you take to collaborate with the State of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office?
Rick Taggart – District A

I made my career in the outdoor recreation industry and I respect and honor the industry’s contribution to Colorado and the nation. The primary interfaces with the State of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry office have been through our State Representatives, the County Commissioners, and our Economic Partners. I have been asked, over the last few years, to participate in conferences and meetings where the State office was seeking input. I will continue to stand ready to work with the State office whenever they need my thoughts, a voice for the valley, or my help on an initiative. I am passionate about the outdoor industry and anything I can do to further the development of this industry in Colorado I am ready and prepared to do.

Dennis Simpson – District D

I am unaware of the current relationship the City Council has with the referenced State program but I would encourage city staff and partners to explore this and other and similar partnerships as appropriate and opportune.

Abe Herman – District E

The Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC) is a fantastic resource for all towns in Colorado. By facilitating partnerships, conducting crucial research, and providing support and expertise, they reduce barriers to the development of the outdoor recreation industry in cities like ours.

In the near term, our city should be actively working with OREC to court outdoor recreation businesses that want to move to Grand Junction, and work to provide opportunities for people already in our community to establish their own businesses. Dreaming big, I would like to see the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Grand Junction someday. What better place to actually be near the outdoor places that those companies’ products are designed and used for? Perhaps our Outdoor Recreation Coalition could help facilitate that discussion.

Randall Reitz – District At-Large

Speaking candidly, before completing this question, I didn’t know that Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office existed. It’s definitely a governmental organization I can get behind. Indeed, if I were to take on a Denver-based committee assignment, I would love to join their advisory board.

The organization emphasizes 4 primary impact areas to focus outdoor recreation industry efforts. Here are local successes and my priorities for each of them:

Economic Development
“Advance economic prosperity for all of Colorado through the outdoor recreation industry.” This has been the area of ORC’s greatest success. We have grown new businesses and recruited businesses from outside of the Grand Valley. I would be a diplomat for our community in these outreach events and prioritize outdoor recreation companies in our strategy for growing and diversifying local businesses.

Conservation and Stewardship
“Engage the outdoor recreation industry in conservation, and sustainable and inclusive access to lands, waters, and climate.” Last winter, my daughter, Gabriela, hosted our community’s first-ever fundraiser for Protect Our Winters (POW). This organization promotes the ski and winter sports industries by supporting efforts to combat climate change. Gabi’s fundraiser partnered with Powderhorn and local sponsors to raise over $3,000 for POW through a ski race at the resort. This is obviously a small effort, but it provides a model for improving local education about the impacts of climate change on the recreation that we love.

Education and Workforce Training
Support diverse and inclusive education and training pathways that will meet the needs of the outdoor recreation industry. Just last year, CMU added an Outdoor Recreation Industry Studies program–one of the first of its kind in the nation. I have hopes that, through this program, we will develop an entire generation of leaders in the field. Other work-force development comes through certification programs for coaches of outdoor sports, such as mt biking, rafting, skiing. I will prioritize the efforts in upcoming Comprehensive Plans and through highlighting their successes at City Council meetings.

Public Health and Wellness
Improve the health and wellness of all Coloradans through outdoor recreation. This is probably the most important goal of the outdoor recreation industry. Currently, these benefits are mostly felt by people of higher income. Outdoor recreation requires lifestyle freedom, training, time-off, and (frequently) expensive gear. Fortunately, there are increasing scholarship programs for low-income youth who want to learn outdoor sports. There are also programs for providing access to free and low-cost outdoor gear. These programs provide a basis on which we can build to ensure that all Coloradans in Grand Junction can enjoy our natural bounty.