After 10 years, work finally ready to proceed on Basalt’s Pan and Fork site

Riverside park will take two years to complete; restaurant will be in first phase of adjacent development

The final push will begin this year on a long-touted park along the Roaring Fork River near downtown Basalt but it’s going to require more patience. The park won’t be completed until late 2022, town staff members told the council Tuesday night.

The town aims to finalize its plans this winter and put the job out for bid, potentially in March, according to assistant planning director James Lindt. The first phase will feature a lot of important but relatively dull work — grading the site and putting in utilities and infrastructure. The public won’t be able to use the site in 2021 due to safety concerns. Work will be shelved during winter 2021-22 and resume next spring. That’s when amenities such as a band shell, the “great lawn,” bathrooms and amenities such as water misters will be installed.

Basalt Mayor Bill Kane said regular updates should be given to the council so members can answer constituents’ questions.

“When dirt starts flying out there, we’re going to be stopped on the streets, ‘Hey, what’s going on with the park?'” Kane said.

He advised staff to get a sign created to post at the site that shows the plan.

This image shows how the Basalt River Park will meld with an adjacent development. A restaurant, located in the building on the right, will be part of the first phase.
Town of Basalt/courtesy image
This picture from summer 2017 shows how the park along the Roaring Fork River was roughed in with grass and trees. The park will be completed in late 2022.
Aspen Times file

Basalt River Park has been a long time coming. The town acquired land along the river in 2011 when the owner of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park sold the property. That portion was made usable a couple of years ago. The town recently acquired another acre to expand the park.

Former Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens urged the council to have its consultant, Connect One Design, lay out a timeline so the public can monitor the progress on the public improvements. He questioned why work would stop next winter. In the midvalley climate, it could continue, especially earth moving while the water table is low, he said.

During the project update, Lindt said an adjacent development — somewhat confusingly called Basalt River Park — would also start this spring. A development group headed by Tim Belinski and Andrew Light will start by building townhomes on the west side of their property, adjacent to the Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center. The first phase will also include a restaurant on the east end of the property, adjacent to the great lawn of the park.

“The restaurant is getting a lot of our attention,” Belinski said. When pressed on who will purchase the site, he said it was premature to divulge.

The timing of the restaurant was vague when the project was approved. Kane welcomed the news about the restaurant advancing.

“It’s heartening to hear this restaurant is going to be phase one,” he said.

The development received final approval in February 2020 for 24 residences, 11,500 square feet of commercial space, the 3,000-square-foot restaurant space and a 6,500-square-foot space that had been touted as the future home of the nonprofit Art Base. The community arts group scaled back its plans and bought a less expensive, completed building in downtown Basalt after the pandemic hit. The move was necessary for financial reasons, Art Base officials said.

Town manager Ryan Mahoney told the council he has been contacted by other nonprofits interested in the space. At the council’s direction, the staff will put out a request for letters of interest for the site.

The town purchased the site, so it controls who will be able to build there. Kane said the goal is to select one or more nonprofits that will “animate the park.” Mahoney agreed.

“I think the intent was to bring vitality to that direction,” he said. “As the mayor said, we’re sort of in the catbird’s seat here. We own it.”


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