Basalt official wants ‘death hole’ fixed at whitewater park
Basalt officials want Pitkin County to keep making refinements that will transform a whitewater park on the Roaring Fork River into something fun rather than feared by next year.
In a joint meeting between the Basalt Town Council and Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday afternoon, Basalt officials stressed that the whitewater park constructed by the county in Basalt continues to present too difficult of a challenge for most river runners.
The county built the park a short distance downstream from Fishermen’s Park and what’s known as the Upper Basalt Bypass Bridge in 2016-17. Concrete structures were embedded in the riverbed to create waves. However, when the river flow increases above 2,500 cubic feet per second, as it did by mid-June this year, the waves often flip rafts and force people to make difficult swims for the riverbanks.
Basalt Councilman Auden Schendler said he knows from experience that the hole created by the first of two structures at the whitewater park isn’t “fun.”
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While some people have suggested that the county’s contractor, River Restoration, just needs to make a bypass on the riverside of the river more accessible, Schendler lobbied for a different solution.
“You don’t need a sneak past that death hole,” he said. “You just need to fix that thing.”
He contended the hydraulics of the features are fundamentally flawed. He urged county officials to seek a second opinion on the solution.
Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle, another avid river runner, suggested that the county place simpler, clearer signage than currently exists upstream of the trouble spot. She said all the signs need to say are, “4+ water feature ahead. Sneak left.” That would put river runners on notice that they need to strive to reach that bypass, she said.
But Schendler was skeptical new signs alone will ease the troubles.
“Can you also distribute Bibles above the hole?” he quipped.
Lisa McDonald, program manager for the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams program, said River Restoration is working on a “matrix” of potential solutions to navigating the features. One idea is to make it easier to catch the bypass, she said.
The contractor hopes to unveil a proposal in October. A public meeting will be held so people can examine the ideas and offer comments, McDonald said. Construction would begin in mid-December.
While Basalt officials were concerned about in-stream conditions, they reacted favorably to the county’s plan to enhance streamside features. Great Outdoors Colorado awarded a $350,000 grant earlier this year for the project.
The county outlined plans for a bike trail along Two Rivers Road, bank stabilization, viewing platforms, bathrooms and a changing area, and improved emergency access to the in-stream waves. There also will be a boardwalk connection to Fishermen’s Park, increased parking at that location and improvements to access and traffic flow around the boat ramp.
Construction is anticipated in spring 2020.
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