Rapid response: Whitewater park request at $600K | AspenTimes.com

Rapid response: Whitewater park request at $600K

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent

A wave of whitewater park supporters roared into Glenwood Springs City Hall Thursday night and watched City Council gulp at a $600,000 request for support for their $1.4 million project.

Some 50 backers of the plan crowded council chambers as members of a whitewater park task force made their case for city backing.

They heard nothing but positive comments from council about the project in concept, but also lots of hesitation over the amount of city funds being sought.

Mayor Bruce Christensen, a longtime supporter of the park proposal, said he was taken aback by the request to provide $300,000 per year over two years.

“Having worked with our budget, that’s not easy to find,” he said.

Other council members voiced similar reservations, but council unanimously agreed to pay $34,000 for continued engineering and for securing of an Army Corps of Engineers permit for the project. That will allow the project to keep moving forward while council takes a closer look at the funding request in coming months during its annual budget process.

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Still, council members didn’t hold out high hopes of being able to contribute as much as park supporters want.

“I … am a supporter but there are always limits to what our support is,” council member Larry Beckwith said.

Said council member Dave Merritt, “We’re going to have to look at the budget down the road and see what can be done and what’s reasonable.”

But council members seemed persuaded by the park committee’s arguments about the benefits it would provide to the city.

“I think the city needs to think in the long term and think of this as a true economic investment,” council member Kris Chadwick said. “We’ll get our money back many times over.”

The park is being planned for West Glenwood, just upstream of where Midland Avenue crosses the Colorado River. Supporters said the park would bring people to the river and help make them stewards of it. It would provide another activity for youth and attract major whitewater competitions. Jason Carey, a river engineer working on its design, said the goal is to have a competition at the park two years from this weekend. Fellow river engineer Nick Turner said the Glenwood park’s advantage would be the reliable flows of the Colorado River.

Golden’s park has a $2 million annual economic impact, “and theirs is really good for only eight weeks of the years whereas Glenwood’s is good for eight months,” he said.

But taking advantage of the Colorado’s flows comes at a higher cost because it’s a bigger river than most that have whitewater parks on them.

The park would include a wave feature in the river, terraced banks, parking, an onshore park and other amenities.

Proponents hope to obtain $400,000 in GOCO funds for the project, and a like amount of other public and private donations.

Park task force chairman Joe Mollica said supporters plan to seek money and in-kind help from numerous contributors, but he’s not comfortable doing so without an upfront commitment from the city. But some council members said they’d like to see commitments from others before the city allocates funds.

Mollica said after the council meeting that supporters will go out and raise money and he was glad for council’s unanimous support for further engineering work.

“It was great to see the entire council was behind the park,” he said.

Jason Powell of Glenwood Springs, one of the numerous kayak enthusiasts in council chambers Thursday, said he would have loved to have seen council commit more money but he’s confident public and private funds will be raised and a park will get built.

“It’s just another step in the long battle to get there. … I think we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.

Supporters had hoped to break ground on the project in February but now plan to apply to GOCO in March and start construction the following winter.