Situated at the junction of the Gunnison and Colorado rivers in Mesa County, Grand Junction, Colorado, is known for its magnificent mountain ranges. The city is surrounded by mountains, including the Grand Mesa, which is the world's largest flat-topped mountain. Once in the custody of the kingdom of Spain, Grand Valley became the site for the town's early development after the exodus of the Ute Indians in the late 1880s. Grand Junction then developed into the center of a large farm and dairy region; the city eventually grew to be the focal point for oil and gas extraction. The city's population, which has nearly doubled since the 1970s, is estimated at about 47,000.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Beginning in the 1970s, Grand Junction acted as an important shipping and processing center, and its oil shale, gas, uranium, and coal-mining industries made the city extremely prosperous, (especially when fuel companies became interested in the region). Although the city underwent a widespread economic crisis after ExxonMobil pulled out of the region in the 1980s due to dipping oil prices, Grand Junction experienced a boom once again as oil and gas prices rose. Tourism has also become economically important, and retail trade, and accommodation and food service industries employ nearly 10,000 people.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
The city of Grand Junction has some distinctive neighborhoods as well as many neighborhoods under development:
- The South Downtown neighborhood includes all properties located between South 4th Street and 28 Road, and between the Railroad Tracks and the Colorado River.
- The 24 Road Corridor comprises approximately 1,000 acres of land. It is intended to assist the City of Grand Junction, utility and service providers and property owners in the project area.
- Orchard Mesa is approximately 13 square miles and is located south of the Colorado River, east of the Gunnison River, and west of 33 Road.
- The Redlands area is located south and west of the Colorado River, from the Highway 340 Colorado River Bridge at Fruita on the northwest, the Colorado National Monument on the south, and the Gunnison River on the east.
- The Westside Downtown is bounded by Main Street on the north, the railroad tracks to the south and west, and Fourth Street on the east.
- The Pear Park neighborhood includes all properties located between 28 Road and 32 Road, and between the Railroad Tracks (I-70 Business Loop) and the Colorado River.
- Other neighborhoods under development include North Central Valley, H Road, South Downtown and Las Colonias Park.
In response to employer comments that employees and potential employees lacked job skills in the marketplace, Grand Junction's school boards and job centers implemented a certificate system in 2006 that would enable potential employees to demonstrate their skills to employers. The groups adopted the WorkKeys program which is used in other states such as Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, and Virginia to grant residents opportunities to achieve vital job skills. The program's success is evidenced by the more than 2,000 certificates that have been issued and the business community's enthusiasm to participate in the program and to hire people who have received a WorkKeys certificate.
There are also a handful of academic institutions in Grand Junction:
- IntelliTec College, which is located on Horizon Drive, specializes in technology, business, and allied health care and offers an associate degree in occupational studies.
- Western Colorado Regional Center, located near the Mesa Mall, offers a diverse range of degrees and certificates in project management and biblical studies.
- Located on North Avenue, Mesa State College features programs in the areas of administrative office technology, biological sciences, culinary arts, energy management, graphic design, manufacturing technology, and Spanish.
Downtown Grand Junction features local businesses and a number of antique shops, art galleries, clothing stores, and dining venues, many of these with sidewalk seating. The area is characterized by Victorian-era architecture and popular community events, such as the Parade of Lights and the Farmers' Market Festival. The downtown streets feature one of the country's largest sidewalk sculpture galleries, which boasts nearly 100 sculptures.
Additional attractions explore Grand Junction's unique mountainous landscape:
- Museum of Western Colorado gives visitors the opportunity to learn about Grand Junction and western Colorado. The museum features rock art panes, prehistoric pottery, and Navajo rugs. The Pastime Saloon is especially fun for children, who can watch the Old West come to life. In addition, visitors can ride in a full-size stagecoach.
- At the heart of the Colorado wine industry is the Grand Valley region just outside Grand Junction. The area produces delectable, high-quality wines in a stunning setting. The region features several intimate and accessible vineyards, particularly in the late summer, when grapes are picked and processed.
- Colorado National Monument is the area's biggest outdoor attraction with its steep-walled canyons, lofty red sandstone columns, attractive valleys, and multitude of wild animals. The site has a visitor center that offers camping information.
- At the base of the Colorado National Monument is Tiara Rado Golf Course, an 18-hole regulation course that offers views of stunning vistas along the Grand Valley's red cliffs.
- Another popular activity is whitewater rafting down the Colorado River, amid the backdrop of the area's majestic mountains. Visitors have the option of using rafts or inflatable kayaks to ride down Westwater Canyon, which wends through a total of 12 whitewater rapids.
- The Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway begins just outside Grand Junction and winds through Unaweep Canyon.
Grand Junction hosts a number of popular events:
- Full Moon Snowshoe Tours, held at Sky Mesa Ranch, features a guided snowshoe hike, which is followed by chili and other refreshments.
- Winter Warm-Up 5K Trail Run takes place at Gateway Canyons, where participants take two laps around the resort.
- Third Saturday Wine Dinners, held throughout the spring and summer at the Paradox Grille, feature a five-course paired wine dinner as well as one night at a selected accommodation, followed by breakfast the next morning.
- The annual Wells Fargo Art and Jazz Festival, also held in May, showcases live jazz acts as well as local art and takes place in downtown Grand Junction.
- Winefest, an annual wine-tasting event, is held in nearby Palisade in September.
The Daily Sentinel is Grand Junction's daily newspaper.