Basalt completes the ‘other’ riverside park

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Visitors checked out Midland Park when it opened in September on the north side of the Basalt Regional Library. Proponents of the library say it needs an economic boost to maintain services and staffing.
Aspen Times file photo |

While the fate of the Pan and Fork parcel along the Roaring Fork River in Basalt has hogged attention, the town government has quietly completed the design and construction of a different riverfront park right across the Roaring Fork River.

Midland Park was completed this month after five years of planning and construction and a $465,000 investment in Phase 1. About 8,250 wetland plants were installed, according to Gyles Thornely, a partner in Connect One Design, the Basalt firm that was the landscape architect. A large share of the park also was seeded with grasses that will fill in this fall and next spring.

A boardwalk keeps visitors above the wetlands. Sidewalks and paths weave through drier parts of the park and lead visitors down to the river.

The park transformed an overgrown area that appeared to be an old ranching dumping ground into a tranquil setting nestled next to the Basalt Regional Library. The new park dominates the view from the soaring windows on the library’s north side.

“The first word that comes to my mind is ‘fabulous,’” library Director Barbara Milnor said about the park. “How do you make nature better? They did.”

The view out of the north windows has always attracted library patrons to the comfortable reading chairs and tables on that side of the building, but the work on the park made the view even more eye-catching.

“When they started this project last spring, it was standing-room only,” Milnor said.

Connect One’s website says the design was intended to celebrate the physical and emotional connections that people share with the river.

“The park is intended to be a place of quiet, natural beauty punctuated with elements that highlight the nature, history and folklore of the river via sculptures and other creative elements,” the firm said. “Small seating and gathering venues are scattered throughout the site, inviting visitors to enjoy the woods, meadow and river.”

There is a fire ring as a central attraction. Phase 2 contemplates bathrooms and a plaza area near the skateboard park. A splash pool is intended to provide safe access to the water at the edge of the river.

Milnor said a story tree will be added that is similar to a “gigantic, organic piece of playground equipment.” The feature, which is about the size of a large dump truck, is expected to be a popular draw for children.

Thornley said at a recent park-dedication ceremony that the site will grow with the community.

“You’ll be amazed how it will turn out,” he said.

The funding came from Basalt’s Parks, Open Space and Trails fund as well as bond proceeds. Connect One collaborated with DHM on the wetlands design. The landscape contractor was Rocky Mountain Custom Landscape, and Aspen Earth Moving was a subcontractor.

The park was the vision of midvalley resident Charlie Cole, who inspired the Basalt town government to form a committee in 2010 to plan the park.

Work continues on a park across the river at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site. In addition, a community debate is in full gear over what to do with a portion of the Pan and Fork property closest to Two Rivers Road.