The Basalt Whitewater Park, located on the Roaring Fork River just upstream from its confluence with the Fryingpan, was given a fiscal shot in the arm Wednesday when the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund (GOCO) awarded the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Board a $350,000 grant to initiate the second phase of the project that kicked off in the winter of 2016-17.
According to Lisa MacDonald, administrator with the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Program, which manages the park, the GOCO grant required a 25 percent local match, which was more than met by Pitkin County government, which chipped in $532,190, and the town of Basalt, which added $103,460 to the stash of cash. In addition, Basalt will be providing some in-kind contributions, such as work on Two Rivers Road near the park.
Expenditures on the park thus far have approached $1 million.
The additional funding will be used to provide safe and improved access to the park in the area of the whitewater wave features installed in 2017.
Basically, the money will be used to make a park out of the park, rather than just a series of waves to be enjoyed by whitewater enthusiasts.
In an effort to engage multiple recreation users, Pitkin County, in partnership with the town of Basalt, will use the GOCO grant to create additions and improvements that increase multiple recreational uses to a broader variety of user groups, more specifically emergency access routes, river-viewing platforms with enough gathering space for groups of various sizes, an elevated boardwalk for exploration and education on a year-round basis, including high-water times, raised pedestrian table crossings for safety and convenience and restrooms and changing rooms.
Work on the improvements should commence later in the spring with an expected completion date of November of this year.
According to the wording of the grant application to GOCO, “In early 2017, after perfecting its waters rights, Pitkin County embarked, with the approval of the Town of Basalt, on the installation of two in-water features to create a wave effect in the Roaring Fork River. This new amenity provided a Mid-Valley option to the whitewater park on the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. It also provided an easier option due to the flows of the Roaring Fork River as compared to those of the Colorado River.
“In 2018,” the application wording continues, “after receiving feedback from the general public, commercial rafting guides and other users of the feature, it was determined that some changes were warranted to compensate for the water flow during peak runoff. The changes made the waves less challenging for the greatest amount of users.”
Today, according to the application wording, the whitewater features improvements have been completed. Both Pitkin County and the town of Basalt have received interest from their residents in continuing to improve the area around the water features.
Currently, access to the river is limited to the boat ramp. Existing riverbanks are heavily vegetated zones that are mostly inaccessible. Changing water levels reveal and conceal areas, making it difficult to plan ahead for a place of access. The limited access is frustrating to residents and their safety is often compromised by their desire to access the water.
The whitewater park has been designed with an extended lifespan in mind. While maximizing access to the surrounding natural environment, the design aims to preserve this environment for generations to come (by preventing users and visitors from making their own paths). Activating the banks of the river in a planned and deliberate manner will create riverbank stabilization and protection, control erosion by creating designated connecting paths/walkways, establish buffer zones for viewing and create setbacks and foster a healthier, safer interaction with this riparian habitat.
To date, GOCO has invested $8.6 million in projects in Pitkin County and has conserved more than 4,400 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported Wapiti Ridge Mountain Park, Crystal Valley Trail, Snowmass Village Community Park, North Star observation platforms, and Moore Athletic Fields, among other projects.
GOCO invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,200 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.