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Familiar faces Whitehead, Pratt to take new roles in Aspen recreation department

Aspen Parks and Recreation announced that Desiree Whitehead has been named the city’s new recreation manager and Jim Pratt the new golf manager.

Whitehead has more than 15 years of recreation-operations experience, most of those with the city of Aspen. She most recently served as operations manager with the Recreation Department, overseeing fitness and wellness programming, youth and adult athletics, camps and after-school programs and guest services.

“The past few years, recreation operations have had to adapt a lot, and quickly, to make it through the challenges of COVID,” she said. “This continues to be an exciting time to be in recreation, and I’m honored to play a part as we continue to evolve and offer quality recreation opportunities in our community.”

Desiree Whitehead has been named the city’s new recreation manager
Courtesy photo

Whitehead grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley. She received her Bachelor’s in Recreation and Master’s in Sports Administration from the University of Northern Colorado. She will start her new role Aug. 29. She said she will evaluate the changing needs of the community and structure programs and facilities.

Pratt joined the city in 2010, most recently serving as Aspen Golf Club’s head golf professional since 2014. With over 20 years of experience in the golf industry, he had previously worked at Cougar Canyon Golf Links in Trinidad and Colorado Springs Country Club.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to bring my passion for the sport of golf to a place I’m proud to call home,” he said. “I look forward to this next chapter in the Aspen Golf Club’s history and building more memorable golf experiences for all in the community.”

Born in Aspen and raised on the Western Slope, Pratt has deep roots in the Roaring Fork Valley. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing and Professional Golf Management from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He is an original graduate of university’s inaugural golf program.

He was a 2021 Colorado PGA Section West Chapter Board member and received their 2021 Merchandiser of the Year award. He will start his new role on Monday. Some of his immediate goals include a redesign of holes 4 and 17 and looking at potential upgrades to the course’s clubhouse.

“We are extremely fortunate to have such talent here in Aspen that is ready to step up and lead our recreation and golf teams,” said Parks and Recreation Director Austin Weiss. “Desiree and Jim have been tremendous assets to the department, and I’m looking forward to working with both of them in their new roles as department heads.”

For information about Aspen Parks and Recreation services, programs and facilities, visit aspenrecreation.com. For information about the city of Aspen, visit cityofaspen.com.

City seeks tenant for restaurant space across from Rio Grande Park

The City of Aspen seeks proposals for the commercial restaurant space at 455 Rio Grande Place.

A fixture of Aspen’s local-food scene, the 1,615-square-foot space has served the community with a fast, reliable and affordable fare for many years, city officials said, and they aim to continue the tradition with the next tenant.

Following the direction of Aspen City Council, the request for proposal specifies that proposals need to demonstrate an intent to maintain year-round restaurant operations and to provide daily lunch and dinner service. Breakfast and late-night bar service options are possible but not required.

Proposals will be evaluated by criteria, including lease rate and terms, concept and menu offerings, ability to provide an affordable menu, qualifications and business model, approach to shoulder seasons and references.

An pre-proposal conference is scheduled at the Rio Grande Building, 455 Rio Grande Place, on Tuesday, Aug. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon. Attendance is not mandatory but provides prospective bidders an opportunity to visit the site prior to finalizing and submitting their proposals, city officials said.

Proposals should be submitted electronically by Friday, Sept. 16, at 2 p.m. on the Bidnet Direct website at www.bidnetdirect.com.

Vendors must be registered to view and download the complete “2022-272 Rio Grande Building Restaurant” proposal package (with timeline) from www.bidnetdirect.com. There is no charge to register. 

A recommendation to consider a selected tenant is scheduled for discussion at the Oct. 11 City Council meeting. The city will work with the selected tenant to ensure the new restaurant space will be open to serve the community as soon as possible, anticipating an opening in summer 2023, officials said.

Questions should be submitted online at www.bidnetdirect.com. Answers will be posted for all interested parties to review and consider. If you need assistance registering, call 1-800-835-4603.

Hiker dies on Thomas Lakes Trail outside of Carbondale

A 35-year-old man died Friday afternoon after passing out while hiking the Thomas Lakes Trail with his girlfriend, who tried to resuscitate him with instructions from Pitkin County dispatchers, the county Sheriff’s Office reported.

The Coroner’s Office is investigating the death of the unidentified man and will release his name after notifications of family, according to a release.

According to the Sheriff’s Office report:

It began with a phone call from the girlfriend on the trail at 11:52 a.m. to the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center. Thomas Lakes Trail is a 7.8-mile out-and-back trail just outside of Carbondale. The trail is popular with hikers looking for a relatively easy day-hike, and backpackers seeking to summit Mt. Sopris.

Pitkin County deputies made contact with her via cell phone and learned the man was unconscious, his lips blue and breathing shallow. CPR resuscitation efforts were advised and instructed. Dispatch was able to get coordinates from the location of the cell phone where the call was placed. Deputies immediately requested the assistance of the all-volunteer group, Mountain Rescue Aspen (MRA), as well as a Flight For Life helicopter (FFL).

FFL went airborne at 12:20 p.m., and, at 12:25 p.m., members of MRA, as well as a county backcountry community response officer, deployed.

FFL reached the man and his girlfriend at 1:04 p.m., and he was pronounced dead at 1:20.

All members of MRA and FFL were out of the field by 4 p.m.

The Sheriff’s Office said the man may have experienced a cardiac event.

Aspen Journalism: Grizzly Reservoir to be drained next summer for rehab work

Grizzly Reservoir, the high-mountain lake above Aspen formed by damming Lincoln and Grizzly creeks, will be drained next summer for repairs to the dam, tunnel and outlet works. 

After spring runoff next year, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company will draw down the reservoir, so workers can install a membrane over the steel face of the dam, which was constructed in 1932, according to a May report on the feasibility of the dam rehabilitation. 

The report, by RJH Consultants Inc. of Englewood, included an inspection and evaluation of the infrastructure and presented different options for rehabilitation. Half the cost of the study — $50,000 — was funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB).

“The purpose of the rehabilitation of the dam is to address dam safety concerns associated with the corroded and thinning upstream-slope steel facing, uncontrolled seepage, and operational problems with the outlet works,” the report reads.

The project will also replace the gates that control the flow of water into the Twin Lakes Tunnel and repair the outlet works that release water down Lincoln Creek. According to the report, the outlet works have issues with cracks, holes and seepage, and the more-than-80-year-old tunnel gates have problems with leakage, are difficult to operate and require significant maintenance every year.

“That infrastructure is aging, and it’s time to do some rehab work on it,” said Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company Board President Kalsoum Abbasi.

Twin Lakes officials expect the project to be completed in October 2023. They will also draw down the reservoir this month to weld a small test portion of the dam membrane to see how it fares through the harsh winter at 10,500 feet. That work is scheduled to begin Aug. 22; the reservoir will be refilled in October. 

Grizzly Reservoir will be drained next summer for a rehabilitation project on the dam, tunnel gates and outlet works. The reservoir serves as the collection bucket for water from the surrounding drainages before it’s diverted through the Twin Lakes Tunnel toward the Front Range.
Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Grizzly Dam is considered a high-hazard dam by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. That does not mean it’s likely to fail, but it means loss of life would be expected if the dam did fail. Yet, the last state inspection in 2021 found the dam satisfactory — the highest rating — and said full storage capacity was safe. 

The report estimated a nearly $7-million price tag for the rehabilitation work. Twin Lakes plans to get a CWCB loan for some of the cost and will pay the remainder with money raised from assessments on its water users.

How the system works

Grizzly Reservoir is part of a complex system of storage buckets, tunnels and canals that takes water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River basin under the continental divide and delivers it to Front Range cities. The system collects runoff from 45 square miles of mountainous terrain, including the New York, Brooklyn, Tabor, Lincoln, Grizzly and Lost Man creek drainages and dumps it into Grizzly Reservoir, which can hold 570 acre-feet of water. 

This concrete-lined canal takes water from Lost Man Reservoir to Grizzly Reservoir. The Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company’s collection system funnels water from 45 square miles of mountainous drainages into the reservoir, so it can be diverted to the Front Range.
Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

From there, the water flows into the 4-mile-long and straight-as-a-pin Twin Lakes Tunnel under the Continental Divide and into Lake Creek, a tributary of the Arkansas River. Twelve miles later, this water arrives at the Twin Lakes Reservoir where it is stored before being sent to Front Range cities via pipelines and pumps. 

Four municipalities own 95% of the shares of Twin Lakes water: Colorado Springs Utilities owns 55%; the Board of Water Works of Pueblo has 23%; Pueblo West Metropolitan District owns 12% and the City of Aurora has 5%. 

The Twin Lakes system is so integral to the cities’ water supply that they employ two caretakers to live year-round in a cabin at the remote reservoir site to make sure everything operates smoothly. It’s Colorado Springs’ largest source of Western Slope water and represents about 21% of its total water supply. 

The project is able to divert up to 46,000 acre-feet annually, or nearly 40% of the flows in the Roaring Fork headwaters, according to numbers from the Roaring Fork Conservancy. In recent years, Twin Lakes has diverted between about 31,000 and 38,000 acre-feet annually, according to data from the Colorado Division of Water Resources. 

During next year’s rehabilitation work, most of the creeks — Lost Man, New York, Brooklyn and Tabor — will be allowed to flow downstream instead of being collected by a canal system that feeds Grizzly Reservoir. As long as the water rights are in priority, Twin Lakes will probably still take and send through the tunnel whatever flows they get from Lincoln and Grizzly creeks, according to Abbasi. This means a stretch of Lincoln Creek below the dam will be dry. 

This dam backs up water from Lost Man Creek, so it can flow into a canal and into Grizzly Reservoir. The reservoir is part of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company infrastructure that moves water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River to the Front Range.
Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

When irrigators in the Grand Valley of western Colorado place the Cameo call — which happens most summers and often commands the entire Colorado River and its tributaries upstream — those with junior water rights have to stop diverting, so irrigators can get their share. The Cameo call is made up of the water rights of agriculture diverters near Palisade, including the Grand Valley Water Users Association and the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District. Under Colorado water law, the oldest water rights have first use of the river, and Cameo’s right is older than Twin Lakes’.

“As long as we are in priority, we can still bring some water through the tunnel,” Abbasi said. “Whatever is making it into the reservoir, we will have a way to route that through the tunnel for the majority of the project.”

Abbasi said overall, Twin Lakes will probably divert less water than normal in 2023. 

Pitkin County’s stored water

Once work begins on the Grizzly Dam next summer, there will probably be more water flowing in the upper Roaring Fork above Aspen when the creeks that usually flow into Grizzly are allowed to go downstream. But, there will also be a 200-acre-foot hole where water stored by Pitkin County won’t be released. 

The 80-year-old steel face of Grizzly Dam will get a makeover next summer with a rehabilitation project. Grizzly Reservoir acts as a forebay for water that is funneled from the Roaring Fork River headwaters to the Front Range.
Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

As part of a 2018 water-court settlement, Pitkin County received 800 to 1,000 acre-feet of water from the Twin Lakes system, which is sent downstream instead of to the Front Range. Two hundred acre-feet of that can be stored in Grizzly Reservoir to release during the late summer. 

“The rationale for Pitkin pushing for that was that’s when we tend to need the water the most,” said Laura Makar, assistant Pitkin County attorney. “That’s when flows matter, and every cfs makes the biggest difference.”

This year, the county used the 200 acre-feet to help boost streamflows between the end of spring runoff and when the Cameo call came on this week. 

“We timed it perfectly, so there’s no hole in the river,” Makar said. “The fish and river got the full benefit. We could sort of nurse the river along until the Cameo call came on.”

The light at the end of the Twin Lakes Tunnel is 4 miles away. The tunnel takes water from Grizzly Reservoir under the Continental Divide and over toward Twin Lakes Reservoir, which is then passed on to Front Range cities.
Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

But, next year, releasing the 200 acre-feet of stored water won’t be possible since there won’t be any water in Grizzly Reservoir during the late summer. 

“It sounds like next year we will be limited to whatever exists naturally in the system,” Makar said. “We are making sure that when we plan for next year, we are ensuring we get the full benefit… but knowing we won’t have 200 acre-feet in late season releases that could actually come from the reservoir.”

Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times. For more, go to www.aspenjournalism.org.

Rogers: The high art of adverbs, adjectives

Well, of course, it wouldn’t be long before ASPENX — the “premium” retail and “experiential” brand from Aspen Skiing Company — would be “pleased to announce a further collaboration with luxury brand Prada to unveil a limited-edition collection of pieces made of renowned Prada Re-Nylon fabric.”

And so on, with the glittering adjectives and adverbs in such press releases, beautiful for stringing them to seemingly every bare noun and verb:

“Representing a commitment to sustainable practice now and in the future, the Prada Re-Nylon is a groundbreaking evolution of the brand’s most recognizable signifier, nylon — an emblem of Prada’s distinct viewpoint on modern luxury. Re-Nylon is the next step in fabric technology and sustainable luxury, a textile that can be endlessly regenerated without loss of quality, a true cyclical luxury.

“Prada Re-Nylon is entirely crafted from a regenerated nylon created through the recycling and purification of plastic collected from oceans, fishing nets, landfills and textile-fiber waste globally. Through a process of de-polymerization, purification and then transformation into new polymers and then threads, this material can be recuperated and made into new nylon fabric.

“Translating Re-Nylon into Prada ready-to-wear, pieces fuse sportswear elements with silhouettes and approaches of luxury: designed by Prada, the womenswear and menswear pieces for ASPENX include jackets, shirts and sweatshirts in a cobalt blue tone with touches of black. The signature graphic — a visual of white and black slashes — is designed by Paula Crown for a contemporary and striking appearance. 

“The limited-edition ASPENX Prada collection is exclusively available in the ASPENX store located in Aspen’s Gondola Plaza and now available for purchase on ASPENX.com.”

Of course, it’s easy for news scribes — with their scribblings focused on just the facts, ma’am, verbs and nouns stripped of adornment — to make light of the more luxurious artistry of the marketers and, truth be told, writers trying to capture the full flavor of all the arts in reviews and such.

Still, some advice from Mark Twain holds through the generations: “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them — then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are far apart.”

Of course, he wasn’t staring down the barrel of a 3,000th press release to pump out for a fancy clothing line, accessories, fragrances, shoes, sunglasses, whathaveyou — never mind trying make a tote bag sound like it’s really worth $5,000.

That might have driven the humorist to a few different adjectives of his own, along with, no doubt, attracting an acquisitive buyer of means only mildly annoyed at such wry observations of this particular art aiming, in this case, to help save the world. Well, if you can afford it.


Photos: Flight of the Ducks takes to Rio Grande in Rotary Club fundraiser

The Rotary Club of Aspen held its primary annual fundraiser, this year called “The Flight of the Ducks,” on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen.

Traditionally the ducks are dumped into the Roaring Fork River, but this year the ducks were dropped from a fire engine via small parachutes onto a target below. Local kids chose the winning ducks at random, with three people winning and one getting the grand prize of $5,000. The money raised goes toward supporting college scholarships, community organizations and international projects.

Tentative plans have the annual “Ducky Derby” returning to its roots in the Roaring Fork River for 2023.

Photos by Aspen Times photo editor Austin Colbert.

The Rotary Club of Aspen held its primary annual fundraiser, this year called “The Flight of the Ducks,” on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen. Traditionally the ducks are dumped into the Roaring Fork River, but this year the ducks were dropped from a fire engine via small parachutes onto a target below.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
The Rotary Club of Aspen held its primary annual fundraiser, this year called “The Flight of the Ducks,” on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen. Traditionally the ducks are dumped into the Roaring Fork River, but this year the ducks were dropped from a fire engine via small parachutes onto a target below.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
The Rotary Club of Aspen held its primary annual fundraiser, this year called “The Flight of the Ducks,” on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen. Traditionally the ducks are dumped into the Roaring Fork River, but this year the ducks were dropped from a fire engine via small parachutes onto a target below.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
The Rotary Club of Aspen held its primary annual fundraiser, this year called “The Flight of the Ducks,” on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen. Traditionally the ducks are dumped into the Roaring Fork River, but this year the ducks were dropped from a fire engine via small parachutes onto a target below.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
The Rotary Club of Aspen held its primary annual fundraiser, this year called “The Flight of the Ducks,” on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Rio Grande Park in Aspen. Traditionally the ducks are dumped into the Roaring Fork River, but this year the ducks were dropped from a fire engine via small parachutes onto a target below.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times


Willoughby: 1886 – final pieces all coming together

Aspen, like the rest of the country, was fascinated with — and followed the progress of — the Statue of Liberty in 1886. At that time, Aspen papers referred to it as Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty Enlightening The World.

Reporting began in 1884 with updates always saying it would be shipped from France soon. It finally arrived in June 1885, but there was more to do: raising funds, building the base and then assembling.

The project was completed, and an opening inauguration ceremony — with Pres. Cleveland presiding — dazzled New York, including a seven-mile parade with an estimated 800,000 participants.  All of this was covered in The Aspen Times, but, if you have visited it, you were likely shocked at the scale of it compared to what you thought from photos.

For Aspen readers, it was even more removed, as there were no photos in papers then. Aspen readers of Leslie’s Illustrated would have seen items like the one pictured with this column. Since the largest building in Aspen at the time was only three stories, it must have captivated their imaginations.

Aspen in 1886 also began to experience long-awaited progress and to see the vital pieces coming together they knew would help Aspen reach its potential. The shipping and assembly of the statue gave them hope.  If that could be accomplished on something that large, their challenges seemed do-able. 

The Aspen Times reported the purchase and delivery of two huge train engines from Schenectady Locomotive for the Midland Railroad. At the time, the Midland connected Leadville with Colorado Springs. As part of the long description, it noted the engine had 234 tubes in the boiler each 13 feet long and two and a half inches in diameter.

That boiler was similar to the boilers and engines that were being deployed to Aspen’s mines to power the ore lifts, sawmills and other needs. In just a few months in 1886, the paper reported three mines adding boilers.

The Midland boiler was a train-engine boiler, and it arrived on the tracks. Aspen’s mine boilers had to be hauled by wagon and mule teams over Independence Pass and then up the steep mountain grades to the mines.  Everything the town used — from shovels to Stetson hats — had to be transported similarly. But, the final piece to Aspen’s success was in view.

The Aspen Times reporting on a new discovery at the Silver Bell — one of the claims near the top of Aspen Mountain — editorialized what it meant with the following: “Like all new and isolated mining camps, it is the strikes of rich ores in large quantities which gives it the start. These create favorable impressions, and a railroad is the inevitable result. With the advent of the railroad the low-grade ore mines came to the front and virtually, as has often been so often demonstrated, became to the camp its greatest source of revenue.”

Moving boilers by train to Aspen signaled that moving anything, even a Statue of Liberty, seemed possible. But, as the paper noted, the railroad defined profitability for many mines, and, while they did not know it at the time, it would be that way for many decades. The cost of moving silver ore over the passes to the Leadville smelters by mule train or wagon load was too costly for lower-grade ores.

The Colorado Midland and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad were both laying track to Aspen in 1886, initiating a frenzy of activity, mine expansions, building projects in town and the opening of many new businesses. While the statue delivery date stretched on and on, the railroads were competing to see who could get there first, to give them an edge for signing shipping customers. They both made it to town the following year.

The statue’s “enlightening the world” was not just a metaphor. The electric lights in the torch lit up the sky, demonstrating the marvels of the new power source. Aspen did not miss that connection, either, as electric lighting had been in existence for a year, and mining engineers were already working on the applications of electricity to mining. All the pieces of a successful future were coming together in Aspen.

Tim Willoughby’s family story parallels Aspen’s. He began sharing folklore while teaching at Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it with historical perspective. Reach him at redmtn2@comcast.net.

Federal grant awarded to fund transportation infrastructure projects in Rifle, Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs and Rifle just received a federal grant to improve infrastructure on transportation in Glenwood Springs and Rifle.

“It’s huge for the region, for the Western Slope,” said Jonathan Godes, Glenwood Springs mayor. “We can’t thank our senators enough, who strongly advocated on our behalf. We really appreciate their support and advocacy.”

A press release went out from Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. John Hickenlooper and Gov. Jared Polis to welcome nearly $46 Million for Colorado transportation projects. 

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the biggest investment in America’s roads, bridges, and transportation since Eisenhower,” Bennet said in the release.

One large part of the project is the Westward Three project, a $24.2 million grant called the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant. It allows the federal government to invest directly in road and transit projects for Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Grand Junction.

“This is a huge win for our workforce, pedestrians, bicyclists and the city’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Godes said. “We can now make significant strides in transit connectivity and address critical safety issues at one of our busiest intersections.”  

The Westward Three will update multiple transportation hubs in Garfield County, redeveloping the one in West Glenwood, expanding and relocating the one in Rifle and creating a pedestrian and bicycle underpass for 27th Street and SH82.

The grant also secures funding for RFTA workforce housing and replacing 12 full-size buses.

There will be an underpass under both 27th Street for the Rio Grande trail, and then another underpass under Grand Avenue/Colorado Highway 82 to get to that BRT station, Godes said.

“That’s going to be important because we’re going to have, I think, 90 parking spaces on the northwest corner of 27th and Grand Avenue,” he said. “Being able to expand, really triple the size of the parking right now, and then get those people who drive there safely across that intersection, that’s a really dangerous intersection.”

The West Glenwood transportation hub, or West Glenwood Transit Plaza will be redeveloped to have a customer service center with expanded parking space and a pedestrian island.

“We’ll have a bike share program in the next couple of years in Glenwood, and that will be a large hub for bike sharing E bikes, traditional bikes, micro transit, little shuttle buses that can deliver people to different locations,” Godes said. “All that is envisioned out of this West Glenwood mobility hub.”

Funding can support multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional projects that are more difficult to fund through traditional Division of Transportation grant programs. 

“Proceeds from the grant will support the relocation and construction of a new Park-n-Ride in Rifle which will double the parking capacity of our current facility,” said Tommy Klein, Rifle city manager in the release. “This project will afford Rifle residents greater opportunity to rideshare and utilize RFTA and Bustang buses for transportation.” 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was created to invest $550 billion in roads, bridges, mass transit and more for the next five years. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created the RAISE grant which will provide $7.5 billion for transportation with $1.5 billion for this year.


Aspen Journalism: Basalt whitewater park to get next round of enhancements

Next week, crews will begin making improvements to the Roaring Fork Whitewater Park in Basalt, including tweaks to the waves, installing a boardwalk and upgrades to the Fisherman’s Park boat ramp. 

The river from the boat ramp to below the play waves will be closed while crews do what Pitkin County Healthy Rivers is calling a bit of routine instream maintenance. 

The project is the next stage of the county’s multimillion-dollar effort to maximize the river experience tied to its recreational, in-channel diversion (RICD) water right. A RICD water right is one of the few tools under Colorado water law designed to keep water in rivers, and it means tying a water right to a man-made structure, like the waves of a whitewater park. Pitkin County’s RICD, which dates to 2010, is supposed to create fun play waves at flows between 240 and 1,350 cfs.

The project was engineered by Carbondale’s River Restoration and will be constructed by Diggin It Riverworks of Basalt. The plan is to lower the left side of the concrete blocks that form the upstream wave, making it more of a “green wave” that’s good for surfing and less of a hole. 

“It’s a little bit crooked, so we are squaring that up,” said Brian Barackman of Diggin It Riverworks. “We should be able to totally fix that wave.” 

Diggin It Riverworks will also remove the sediment that has collected on the river left side as a result of the misalignment, as well as adjust the rocks that are immediately downstream of the wave blocks. The goal is to lower the downstream pool and create a trough. 

This map shows where enhancements will take place at the Roaring Fork Whitewater Park starting Aug. 15.
Pitkin County Healthy Rivers/Courtesy

This is the county’s third attempt at fixing the play waves, which were constructed during the winter of 2016-17. They were re-engineered two more times after the waves created boat-flipping holes that river runners said were dangerous at high water. 

It’s not uncommon for man-made river structures to need fixing, especially after they are tested during spring runoff. The city of Durango, for example, has had similar issues with the features in its whitewater park. 

But, Barackman said the work this time around is minor compared to the restructuring of the last two times. 

Diggin It Riverworks will make the third in a series of tweaks to the concrete features that form the upstream play wave. The goal is to create a wave better suited to kayakers.
Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

“It is minor what we are doing, but the steps we are going to take will help the performance of these waves,” he said. “We are just trying to pull the whitewater back a little bit to create that flat area, so kayaks have room to play and it isn’t such a steep wave going down in the whitewater.”


The upcoming project will also include improvements to the boat ramp at Fisherman’s Park, which is currently a dirt slope. It will get resurfaced with concrete and will be closed while the work is going on. The work will require removal of a few trees, and there will be midday impacts to traffic on Two Rivers Road when the concrete is poured. 

The other big enhancement to the area will be a 250-yard-long boardwalk that connects the Fisherman’s Park boat ramp to the whitewater park along the river right bank. Pitkin County officials hope the boardwalk will allow kayakers to more easily lap the park and scout the waves at high water, create a place for school groups to learn about the riparian ecosystem and provide a more pleasant streamside experience because users will be separated from the traffic on Two Rivers Road. 

Brian Barackman, of Diggin It Riverworks, points out where the boardwalk will go on the river-right bank. The 250-yard-long boardwalk will connect the boat launch at Fisherman’s Park with the whitewater park downstream.
Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

“We just want people to use the park and enjoy it and enjoy the river,” said Lisa MacDonald, paralegal with the county attorney’s office and Healthy Rivers. 

The instream work will take place between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30, which is according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife guidelines to minimize impacts to aquatic life. Officials say they will install signage that lets boaters know they cannot float through the area during this time. The boardwalk construction and work at Fisherman’s Park is scheduled to be completed by Oct. 31.

The boat ramp at Fisherman’s Park will be upgraded to a concrete surface as part of the project, which begins next week. The boat ramp will be closed during the construction.
Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

The project is estimated to cost $658,000, and the boardwalk portion will be partially funded by a $350,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant; Pitkin County Healthy Rivers will fund the rest. The initial budget for the whitewater park was $770,000. 

County officials hope another future phase of upgrades to streamside amenities at the whitewater park will include a bathroom, changing room, wave-side seating and improved parking and emergency access. They put the project out to bid in June but did not receive any bids.

Aspen Journalism covers water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times. For more, go to www.aspenjournalism.org

Aspen High School grad’s aspiration takes flight with new certificate

Peter Maron, a recent Aspen High School graduate, has earned his private pilot’s certificate, a milestone in his quest to become a professional aviator.

Earning the license was not easy. Maron learned much about the science of aviation, meteorology, and how to fly the technologically advanced Diamond DA40NG. The final step was to complete a two-hour knowledge test and a 90-minute flight test, during which he needed to complete a range of maneuvers flawlessly.

The private pilot’s certificate will allow Maron to fly single engine airplanes as a private pilot.

“Peter started in the high school’s first class and was determined to obtain his private pilot certificate,” Garrett Seddon, Aspen School District aviation
director. “He is proactive and sets the standard for dedication to safety and quality in his flying.”

The school flight program aims to support students’ aviation aspirations and address the international shortage of aviation professionals. The Department of Labor predicts continued high demand for pilots and aviation maintenance technicians.

Through the Every Student Flies program, housed within the aviation program, Aspen High School students have the opportunity to take flight. They take a free flight lesson with Certified Flight Instructors and learn about aviation careers.

District officials said the community can support the aviation program by attending the Oct. 1st Fly-In at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport.