Basalt River Park finally taking shape with $1 million plan
After years of planning, gnashing teeth in a political battle and a costly relocation of mobile homes, Basalt is finally ready to add amenities to its River Park.
Town Council gave an informal endorsement Tuesday of a conceptual plan for the park, located near downtown on the northern bank of the Roaring Fork River. Council must approve the final design.
“I’m excited about this plan,” Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle said. “It’s got really something for everyone.”
The town has about $1 million earmarked for the project through its sales tax dedicated to parks, open space and trails, according to Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. Roughly $750,000 would be spent next year and $300,000 the following year on the second phase.
“This is not going to be inexpensive but this is not something that’s going to be break-the-bank expensive,” Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said.
The town must also negotiate acquiring additional land to expand the park.
Heather Henry of Connect One Design, the Basalt firm hired to work on the plan, outlined the conceptual plan for council. The town’s Parks, Open Space and Trails citizens’ advisory board also influenced the design.
Many of the proposed features are tied to the history or geology of the Basalt area — “Those things that make Basalt, Basalt,” Henry said.
For example, the stage and band shell will resemble the charcoal kilns that are so prominent in Basalt’s history. Seven kilns constructed in the mid-1880s have been restored at Arbaney Park in Basalt.
A “mister” water feature would prominently display features constructed of basalt rock that gave the town its name.
Large play features resembling hay bales will dominate the center of the park, giving a nod to the midvalley’s agricultural past.
“From a distance, it will look like you just hayed part of your field,” Henry said.
The band shell will be at the eastern end of the park along Midland Avenue. The interior will be a climbing wall. A walking path and the curved misting water feature area will create a natural amphitheater with a vast “great lawn.” Henry said the area will be able to seat as many as 4,000 people for concerts and other special events.
The plan honors one of the community goals to preserve a wide, V-shaped viewplane while looking from downtown toward the river. A large, mature tree at the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue will remain at the park entrance. Close to the entrance will be a slide wide enough to let multiple kids go down at once.
As the park moves west or downstream from the great lawn, it will include the hay bale play features, willow forts for kids to play in, climbing trees and an existing sand beach. Wetlands will be preserved on the western side of the park, which is sandwiched between the river and a proposed development closer to Two Rivers Road.
An existing boardwalk will tie into a path that will be built between Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center and a new development that mixes residential, commercial and nonprofit uses. A team headed by Tim Belinski proposed the project, which is on the other half of the former Pan and Fork site, closest to Two Rivers Road. Although the development project doesn’t have final approval, the proposal includes a restaurant with a large patio that would face the great lawn and be oriented toward the band shell.
The park will include numerous shade trees and benches. Picnic areas overlook the river. Boat tie-offs will be sprinkled along the riverbank.
A bus shelter with bathrooms is being contemplated close to where a bus stop currently exists on Two Rivers Road.
Councilman Ryan Slack called the plan “awesome” and said he couldn’t wait to see it come to fruition.
Councilman Bill Infante gave credit to the consulting team, POST board and town staff for the work on the plan.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt also credited the team for “a great job.”
“I have felt a lot of ownership about this thing for many, many years,” Whitsitt said. “I will refrain from micro-managing on this planning effort because I think you’re doing a great job.”
Tennenbaum said he initially questioned if the project should include the misting water feature.
“At first I was like, ‘Should we be using water’?” Tennenbaum said. “This is the most efficient and I think it’s something people would really like. It shows we’re trying to conserve water by not having a full-on water feature there.”
The town bought about 3 acres of the old Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park for $1.2 million in 2011. It began relocating residents of the mobile homes in 2013. The debate over what to build on the site broke out and pitted park proponents against those who felt something with more vitality was needed. Some people are frustrated that the park still has bare-bones amenities so long after its purchase.
Belinski’s team earned sketch plan approval for a plan earlier this year. He is working on final details for review by council, so that half of the property also could alo soon take shape.
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