Basalt puts controversy behind it at new park site | AspenTimes.com
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Basalt puts controversy behind it at new park site

The Basalt town government is waltzing into the second stage of its first major open space project after addressing heavy criticism about its plan to develop a riverfront park.

The town has torn apart the Levinson property along the Roaring Fork River behind the Taqueria el Nopal restaurant as part of the first stage to install infrastructure. Now it’s preparing to put the park back together. The Basalt Town Council gave final approval last week to a detailed plan that will shape how the park looks.

As part of that process, the town has placated the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt-based conservancy group that raised objections to the town’s original plan.

Basalt Town Manager Bill Efting credited the conservancy for engaging the town in what he likened to a fiery dance.

“This thing started off like a Bosonova but we really did end up with a better project,” Efting said.

Rick Lafaro, a spokesman for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said the organization was “excited” to see the project progress, and that it would continue to work with the town staff and consultants on an appropriate vegetation plan for the park.

In an earlier meeting, Conservancy Executive Director Jeanne Beaudry had objected that the town was removing too many native cottonwood trees and making too many other alterations to the natural environment. The Conservancy has watched the plan with particular interest because it has purchased property adjacent to the park for its office and a nature center.

The town’s park plan prompted an officer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to ponder at an earlier meeting if any nature would be left around the nature center.

Neither Beaudry nor the wildlife officer appeared before the council last week. Efting said the scrutiny forced the town to reconsider issues such as the number of trees being removed as well as the overall seeding and landscaping plan.

The town is spending nearly $1 million to create the park. Nearly half of the amount, $482,000, is coming through a Great Outdoors Colorado grant that must be spent by April 2005. The town is using $420,000 from its open space fund on the park development. The remainder comes from a state wildlife division grant of $67,000 and $15,000 from the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

During the first stage of the project – which made it appear that the town was digging the foundation of a Super Wal-Mart – a contractor installed an underground wall of boulders that will help protect a storm water collection pond from flood waters. Crews also stabilized the river bank and rehabilitated areas around the pond.

The second phase will feature landscaping, building of trails and the construction of a bridge that spans Spring Creek and wetlands. The pedestrian bridge is one of the more costly items in the project. It will be about 130 feet long and costs between $125,000 and $150,000. The bridge will have a tower that will jut 30 to 35 feet in the air.

Contractors will be asked to place bids later this month, and work could start in July. The park could be completed by fall or early next spring.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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