Red tape eliminated from Basalt whitewater park
A snafu that threatened to prevent easy access to a new whitewater park in Basalt was resolved this week and town officials expect to see a spike in use as the water rises.
The town of Basalt removed a fence that blocked access to the pedestrian ramp after an agreement was reached on safety improvements.
“People were climbing over the fence anyway,” said Davis Farrar, interim town manager in Basalt.
Pitkin County built the ramp from Two Rivers Road down the embankment to the Roaring Fork River. It is envisioned that kayakers will use the ramp after exiting the river. If the ramp isn’t open, it requires users to go considerably farther downstream to the confluence of the Roaring Fork River and Fryingpan River, to exit without trespassing on private land.
Kayakers were complaining that the exit strategy was far from ideal.
“The staff understands the situation with users interested in getting on the features as water levels make the features function,” Farrar said late last week. However, roadside safety is the top priority for the town, he said.
After a series of meeting between Farrar and county staff, a compromise was reached this week before Memorial Day weekend.
Basalt agreed to make temporary parking available on a wide, dirt pullout just downstream from the pedestrian ramp. Lines have been painted in the dirt to show the parking spaces.
Signs also have been posted urging vehicles with trailers to park at Fisherman’s park, closer to the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Highway 82. Basalt doesn’t want trailers filling the few parking spaces or creating a traffic hazard, Farrar said.
The town also used signs to try to make it clear that water users cannot back a trailer down the pedestrian ramp. It’s already been attempted once, according to Farrar.
Meanwhile, Pitkin County will add pedestrian crosswalks and, in the longer term, provide additional parking for whitewater park users.
The in-stream work was completed earlier this year. The upper feature creates a hole while the lower feature creates a wave. Whitewater enthusiasts have gone on record with their enthusiasm over the park.
Farrar, an avid kayaker himself, anticipates the features to be popular with kayakers and, at times, stand-up paddler boarders.
For kayakers, the Basalt whitewater park will be a “park and play” area, he said.
“You play for some amount of time, get out and go back to your car,” Farrar said.
The hole feature currently needs a higher water level to enable kayakers to do tricks, according to Farrar. He anticipates it will be ideal soon as the water level rises, then it will be washed out during peak runoff times before coming back in.
“This weekend will probably be when the features start coming in,” he said, with the caveat that it all depends when temperatures warm up. The runoff spurred by Wednesday’s high temperature was tempered by the cool down Thursday.
Pitkin County and Basalt plan a grand-opening ceremony of the whitewater park June 16. Two Rivers Road will be closed for the opening celebration from School Street to Elk Run Drive. The ceremony will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. and feature food and drink.
Farrar said they will likely try to get elected officials to float through the area on a raft during the celebration.
“The water will be real high,” Farrar said. “It’ll be ripping through there.”
With many lingering questions still surrounding the fate of Aspen’s historic Old Powerhouse, City Council decided during Monday’s work session to hold off on providing staff direction on moving the preservation project forward until more information can be presented.