Basalt whitewater park construction may begin soon
Pitkin County commissioners expressed support Wednesday for an ordinance that paves the way for construction to begin on a whitewater park on the Roaring Fork River in Basalt.
The ordinance, which will come up for official adoption after a public hearing July 27, will allow construction of “in-channel structures” in the river, said Laura Makar, assistant Pitkin County attorney.
The structures, or “wave features,” would create channels for kayakers and paddleboarders to ride in the whitewater park, which is currently known as the Pitkin County River Park Project, according to Makar and previous statements by Pitkin County Attorney John Ely.
The project, initially proposed by the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams program, will be built in the Roaring Fork River just above the confluence with the Fryingpan River. The structures to be constructed are allowed because the program acquired a rare water right called a recreational in-channel diversion, which allows water to flow into the site during high flow times of the year. Drift boats and rafts will be able to get past the structures.
The recreational channel diversion may be the last of its kind built in the state because of recent changes in water law, said Commissioner Rachel Richards.
The construction, which will take a couple of months, will occur sometime between August and February, depending on recommendations from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department, Makar said.
Before that happens, however, a public meeting will be held in Basalt explaining when construction will begin and what the structures in the river will look like, she said.
While recreation could attract more boaters to the Roaring Fork Valley, commissioners have said that part of the appeal of the project is utilizing the water right and keeping that water in the Roaring Fork River and unavailable to other entities. Commissioner George Newman reiterated that stance Wednesday, saying the “real purpose” of the project is to maintain minimum flows and ensure the river remains healthy.
Richards seconded those comments.
“This is very important to the future health of the Roaring Fork River,” she said. “I’m very excited to see it move forward.”
While the in-river features have been planned, riverbank features of the park have not. Those details will come later, Richards said.
“Parks are built in phases,” she said.
The arts scene in Basalt continues to rival its up and down valley counterparts with several new exhibitions on the horizon and artists opening studio spaces and participating in group shows alongside their peers.
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