People can pick a mover without city force
by Linn and Ari Armstrong
The following article was originally published in a slightly modified version by Grand Junction Free Press on October 2, 2007.
Mayor Jim Doody wants to bring Robert Redford's "people-mover" to Grand Junction, according to Emily Anderson's September 17 story [in Grand Junction Free Press], "People-mover in GJ's future?"
For those of us not as sophisticated as Doody's new friends from Hollywood's elitist and radical left, this "people-mover" is also known as a ski lift. Anderson writes, "The mayor envisions the mover as a sloping or horizontal chairlift, or possibly a gondola that people could bring their bicycles on."
Color us skeptics. We've been to Powderhorn and other resorts around the state, and we've seen people use these machines. While they're great for getting to the top of the mountain -- if sometimes the source of unintended comedy -- we're not convinced they'd be an efficient means of city transport. After all, those of us not recently descendent from Redford's lofty Sundance Preserve -- a.k.a. Mount Olympus -- typically travel to and from many locations, not just a few. Nevertheless, if people want such transportation, they will be happy to pay a private provider for it.
Doody also wants the city to favor developers who "put homes next to businesses" and "build an energy-efficient building," Anderson reports. They would get a "bonus" or get a "building permit... faster than other builders." In other words, the city would reward or punish businesses based on whether they follow the will of city planners.
Doody might first want to look at the ways that city zoning has prevented more integrated development. Then he should consider the fact that not all people want to live next to businesses -- and it is their right to buy property on a free market as they desire and can afford. Similarly, if energy-efficient buildings save money, as environmentalists claim, then people can be persuaded to build them. The city doesn't need to force people to do it.
Others in the Grand Valley had visions of "people-movers" long before the "Sundance Summit: A Mayors' Gathering on Climate Protection." Henry Rustler Rhone's vision was to move people, goods, and animals from Grand Junction to the Mesa-Garfield county lines.
The Rhone Toll Road has been of interest to your senior author, Linn, since his early childhood when the family would travel from De Beque to Grand Junction. His father, Otto, would tell of his uncle who helped construct the road and perhaps even collect tolls.
The question of the toll keeper is what inspired Donald A. MacKendrick, former Dean at Mesa College, and Linn to gather more information about the road. Linn introduced Donald to Armand De Beque, who had been Linn's history teacher, band director, choir director, basketball coach, and English teacher. Armand's father, Dr. W. A. E. De Beque, was a good friend of Rhone's. Armand provide a wealth of information about Rhone -- his godfather -- and the toll road.
In the Journal of the Western Slope, Winter 1987, MacKendrick reports that in 1883 Rhone approached De Beque with the idea of the building of the road. Armand reported that his father used the road to travel to Grand Junction to provide medical attention to the laborers.
The toll road apparently opened for business in December of 1885. MacKendrick reports the following rate schedule: a single team and wagon or stagecoach, $3.00; each saddle animal, 75 cents; loose cattle, horses, and mules, 22.5 cents each; loose hogs and sheep, 75 cents each.
Linn also conducted an oral interview with Julia Harris, a Mesa County pioneer, on January 27, 1992. She said her family had traveled the road in 1886. The toll of $13.65 included three wagons and four horses or mules per wagon.
Rhone sold his road to the Rio Grand Junction Railway in late 1889 or early 1890. By the end of 1890 the train was arriving in Grand Junction and the life of the toll road was over.
Hiking the old toll road offers a glimpse of the vision of Henry Rhone. This was one tough road to build: shear cliffs, steep climbs, a river that had awesome power. Add to that a long battle to obtain investment money.
Rhone's vision helped the Grand Valley open its doors upriver. Now, a hiker can catch his breath on the old toll road and watch vehicles zoom along the interstate. The families shopping for comforts and necessities and the business people conducting commerce capture the imagination. The old toll road gave way to steam-powered trains, then diesel engines, then automobiles. Rhone never could have imagined the cell phone towers that carry thousands of messages a minute, but they also line his old roadway.
In researching the road, Linn never did find where Rhone obtained a "bonus" or building permit from the local planners. Rhone's vision didn't include what Anderson describes as "Speeding certain developers through the permit process." He was not subject to the whims and blackmail of social engineers and economic central planners. Rhone had a vision to build a people-mover, and he built it.