Council OKs next phase of work in Aspen’s Rio Grande Park |

Council OKs next phase of work in Aspen’s Rio Grande Park

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council gave a green light Tuesday for the city Parks Department to proceed with plans for the second phase of a drainage improvement project at Rio Grande Park.

Construction on the first phase, which primarily involves the creation of stormwater ponds and a wetlands area between the basketball court and the John Denver Sanctuary, began about a year ago. The city earmarked around $200,000 for the first phase in its 2011 budget, and the work is expected to be finished this summer.

The second phase, which was included in the 2012 budget, carries an estimated price tag of $1.1 million and involves more stormwater pond and wetlands areas north of the park’s grass playing field. The plans also include a new trail configuration, flower gardens near the sanctuary and throughout the park, a pumping station to irrigate the park with nonpotable water, and a public restroom building.

The restroom will feature a compostable toilet system – human waste will be removed from the premises every 12 to 15 months and taken to the Pitkin County Landfill. Plans call for its location in the center of the park, just north of the playing field and south of Theatre Aspen’s tent structure. Preliminary designs call for separate buildings for men and women, but some council members expressed a desire to house the bathrooms in a single building.

There also was talk about whether the proposed restroom location works best. Council members reached a consensus that the spot between the playing field and Theatre Aspen’s tent, along a trail that runs north of the field, would serve the greatest number of people and that users of the skateboard park on the east side of the park wouldn’t have to walk very far to use it.

April Long, the city’s stormwater manager, said the overall goal with both phases of the project is to create a natural way of filtering and cleaning stormwater that flows downward from Aspen’s core to the Roaring Fork River.

“The reason we want to do this is because it’s environmentally friendly, obviously,” she said. “But also because this is a more sustainable solution to storm-water treatment and it economically makes sense. We’re not going to put things underground where we have to cover it with asphalt and concrete, which is extremely expensive and takes away our ability to monitor and inspect what we’re doing with our stormwater systems.”

Councilman Torre said he supported “about 80 percent” of the plan but didn’t like the idea of separate buildings for the restrooms. He also questioned the facility’s location, saying it could become a haven for teenagers hanging out and possibly causing mischief.

“I don’t think that’s where you want people hanging out late at night, doing their own thing,” he said. “I was a teenager once myself, so if I were still a teenager I would look forward to this.”

Torre added that he didn’t like the concept of a wall at the corner of North Mill Street and Rio Grande Place that includes large letters that identify the park. He also didn’t favor the potential placement of a stormwater pond between North Mill Street and the playing field.

“My overall philosophy on this is: I like rough Aspen,” he said. “I don’t want everything to look like it’s manicured, like every boulder was put in place. While you have designed something that is intriguing and beautiful, it’s beyond what my personal taste is.”

Jeff Woods, parks and recreation manager, said he’ll likely return to the council in the near future with redesigns that include a single restroom building and a downscaled look for the corner of the park at North Mill Street and Rio Grande Place.

He said the project’s second phase probably would get under way in July and would be completed about a year later. The city is saving money on the project by performing most of the work on its own.

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