Dispute threatens purchase of boat launch in Carbondale | AspenTimes.com

Dispute threatens purchase of boat launch in Carbondale

Janet UrquhartThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Pitkin County Open Space and Trails

CARBONDALE – The pending purchase of property containing a heavily used boat launch on the Roaring Fork River near Carbondale could fall apart over a dispute about whether the area should accommodate a kayak park.Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, briefed the program’s board of directors on the matter Friday at a meeting in Redstone, and sought the board’s permission to weigh in on the squabble.Board members told Will to go ahead.The county isn’t a party to the purchase of the strip of land along the river that contains the boat launch. But Open Space and Trails is the agency that secured a $5 million Great Outdoors Colorado legacy grant in 2006 that funded various projects and purchases, including part of the recently completed first segment of the Crystal Valley Trail.The grant monies include $1 million that is to be dedicated to the purchase of the $2.5 million Koziel property, located on the Highway 82 side of the river, just below the Highway 133 bridge into Carbondale. In addition, the town was to put in $450,000, Garfield County agreed to contribute $100,000, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife is to spend $950,000 on the purchase.The riverfront land, about 7.8 acres, includes the boat ramp, a parking area and turnaround, and an upper bench used for trailers and campers known as the Sopris RV Park.The purchase is set to close next month, but an impasse between the town and DOW is putting the acquisition in jeopardy, according to Will. If the GOCO funds aren’t spent by the end of the year, they may be lost, he said.The DOW has asked Carbondale to agree to a restriction that would force the town to forgo a kayak park involving the Koziel property, as well as other, upstream lands also owned by the town, he said. The DOW is concerned about preserving angler parking and access to the river – its impetus for contributing to the purchase of the property.”My concern is that we’re going to lose the whole purchase over this impasse,” Will said.”We’ve told [Carbondale] from the very beginning that we don’t want to have a kayak park,” said Perry Will, DOW area manager in Glenwood Springs. “A water park – we’ve seen it before – it just dominates the parking, the facilities, everything else.”The DOW’s Will said the boat launch may be the most heavily used one by anglers in the state. Securing it for that purpose, permanently, is a division priority.The division has been spending $25,000 annually to lease the launch for the public, he said. The site was closed for a couple of months in the summer of 2008 when a previous lease agreement expired.The town wants to preserve the parcel for river access, but wants to accommodate kayakers as well as anglers, according to an Aug. 23 letter from the town’s attorney to the DOW. Carbondale is seeking recreational water rights for a kayak park and has spent nearly $80,000 on those proceedings, said attorney Mark Hamilton of Holland & Hart.The GOCO grant application made note of the kayak plans, he said.The town is willing to work with the DOW on the design of any boating features in the river and to ensure parking and access is retained for anglers, according to Hamilton’s letter.Dale Will suggested Open Space and Trails not take sides in the debate over recreational uses, but rather urge the parties to move forward with the purchase. Since the town has offered to consult with the DOW before any kayaking improvements are made, those discussions can continue after the property is secured, he said.”I think there’s a simple solution, which is to get the property in public hands,” he said.janet@aspentimes.com