Basalt whitewater park pricetag in the millions |

Basalt whitewater park pricetag in the millions

Tom Wills tests out the Pitkin County Whitewater Park in Basalt this summer.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

basalt whitewater park Funding by year

2015: $172,139

2016: $608,623

2017: $796,540

2018: $330,964

2019: $163,879

Total: $2,072,145

2020 budget: $1,390,000

Total: $3,462,145

The price tag so far for the whitewater park on the Roaring Fork River in Basalt is nearly $3.5 million, according to numbers released Thursday by Pitkin County.

That amount includes $1.4 million that has been budgeted for the project in 2020 but has not yet been spent, as well as a $350,000 state grant for streamside amenities and about $180,000 from the town of Basalt, according to Lisa MacDonald of the Healthy Rivers and Streams Board and budgetary information supplied by Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.

The money spent for the project already and budgeted for this year includes both streamside improvements and in-river construction of two wave features, which will undergo engineering adjustments next week for the second time since they were built in 2016-2017.

Whitewater parks tend to need tweaking after they’re built to make wave features navigable, especially in high-water conditions, said MacDonald, noting that Durango’s park has undergone nine alterations.

“It’s a work in progress,” she said Thursday. “(Making adjustments to the waves) is the nature of the project.”

The park — located about a quarter mile upstream of the Roaring Fork’s confluence with the Fryingpan River — was initially budgeted at $770,000 by the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board after it was approved in 2015. According to the budget numbers released Thursday, the county spent about $780,000 on the project in 2015 and 2016.

The project cost $796,500 in 2017, $331,000 in 2018 and about $164,000 last year, according to those numbers, for a total of just over $2 million.

Most of that money came from the Healthy Rivers and Streams fund, which is supported by a sales tax, Peacock said.

The whitewater park opened in 2017, but was beset with complaints from boaters about the dangerous conditions created by the two wave structures, which are spawned by pre-cast concrete forms embedded in the river bottom, during high-water conditions. The wave structures were re-engineered in the winter of 2018, but low water conditions from a below-average snow year that spring didn’t adequately test the tweaked structures.

Last year’s big snow year, however, put the wave structures to the test, though for many, they failed again with large holes that flipped boats, sometimes holding them in the hole, and sent boaters for long, cold swims. The area was previously a mellow section of river.

After another round of public comment this fall, River Restoration of Carbondale engineered more tweaks that will begin being made next week.

Crews will try to adjust the structures so the holes they create are not as large and will better flush water through the two structures and create wave trains, said Quinn Donnelly, a River Restoration engineer.

The original contract with River Restoration called for the firm to adjust the two wave features as needed, said John Ely, Pitkin County attorney. Before going back to the company for a third go-round on the project, Pitkin County sought a second opinion on the structures from another engineer, who said River Restoration’s “approach was fine and appropriate and consistent with what he would do in the same situation,” Ely said.

“(The adjustments are) not inconsistent with building these things,” he said. “It takes a few years to tweak them and get them into position.”

The whitewater park as an amenity was not as important to Pitkin County as the water rights it received for creating it, Ely said. The idea was to keep more water in that section of river to protect habitat.

“There has to be use of the waves to call water to the river,” Ely said. “That’s why it’s so important.”

Construction on the latest tweaks in the riverbed is scheduled to begin next week and run possibly through March 15. The area will be closed to the public during construction. Ancillary construction activities may take place in the area until April 30, according to Healthy Rivers email.


Local 14 year old writes young adult novels

Nyala Honey has done more in her 14 years on this earth than many people accomplish in decades. The 14-year-old Basalt resident has published two young adult novels, which she’ll talk about and read from at Explore Booksellers at 2 p.m. on June 8.

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