Basalt looks into whitewater park |

Basalt looks into whitewater park

A group is looking into the possibility of creating a whitewater park along a couple of miles on the Roaring Fork River through Basalt.The park would include water features for kayakers and other paddlers on the river, along with trails and amenities at key access points on the riverbank. Pitkin County Attorney John Ely is heading the investigation. He stressed the idea is in its infancy.”We’re not in a ‘Yep, we’re going ahead’ kind of mode,” Ely said. Ely must still explore critical issues like water rights and compatibility with fishing, he said.The county is interested because it owns a small park along the river at the east entrance of Basalt. The town of Basalt owns additional land at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan rivers, and it created a new park by the Taqueria el Nopal restaurant.County and town officials met with paddlers last week to see if a whitewater park is even conceivable along that stretch of the river. They “absolutely” liked the idea, Ely said.Paddling enthusiast Davis Farrar of Missouri Heights was among those they consulted. “I think there’s great potential in the Basalt area,” he said.Right now whitewater enthusiasts regard that stretch of the river as tame, he said. It would require the addition of one or more features.Whitewater parks are becoming popular in river towns throughout the country. They lure both paddlers and spectators. Placing rocks in strategic locations creates waves and eddies, and influence the current. Salida, on the Arkansas River, created a highly acclaimed whitewater park in 2000. Carbondale has explored creating a whitewater park, and Glenwood Springs has an ad hoc committee pursuing action.Farrar said a key to success is making the river corridor accessible and attractive to nonpaddlers. It motivates residents to take more “ownership” of their river and can spur interest in learning about and protecting ecosystems, he said. Parks centered solely on kayaking aren’t as successful, Farrar said.No specific plan or cost of the Basalt river park is available yet. Farrar said several “drop structures” already exist along that stretch of river. Drop structures are rows of rocks from stream bank to stream bank. They create small rapids. They often improve fish habitat by pumping oxygen into the river.Town Manager Bill Efting said one critical factor in deciding if Basalt pursues a whitewater park is its compatibility with fishing. The Colorado Division of Wildlife designates the Roaring Fork as a gold medal fishery, meaning it has high numbers of big trout. Efting said nothing should interfere with that gold medal designation.”We need to make sure that, No. 1, they can coexist together,” he said.Efting plans to consult with state wildlife officials on the compatibility issues before the exploratory group meets again in August. Ely said a park would also require securing water rights, even if current flows are adequate for a whitewater park. He is researching acquisition of those rights. It appears that water levels on the river during an average year are enough to sustain a whitewater park, Ely said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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