River access higher priority for Carbondale than kayak park | AspenTimes.com

River access higher priority for Carbondale than kayak park

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Pitkin County Open Space and Trails

CARBONDALE, Colo. – Enhanced fishing opportunities and boating access that would come with the acquisition of a piece of property along the Roaring Fork River are higher priorities now for the town of Carbondale than a kayak park, according to Carbondale Recreation Director Jeff Jackel.

“The lowest of priorities for the town at this point is a whitewater park, especially with the economy and the town’s financial situation,” Jackel said. “It could be many years before we can even begin to pursue that project.”

Jackel’s comments came after Colorado Division of Wildlife officials expressed concerns recently that whitewater interests could negatively impact the division’s priority to preserve on the property access to a boat launch, which is heavily used by anglers.

The DOW is one of several entities that have put up funding for purchase of the $2.5 million Koziel property, located between the Roaring Fork River and Highway 82 just below the Highway 133 bridge leading into Carbondale.

The division agreed to spend $950,000 on the purchase in order to preserve the established boat launch, which it has leased for many years from the property owners.

Funding for the property purchase also includes $1 million of a larger $5 million Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Legacy Grant, which was obtained by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails in 2006 for a variety of projects, including the Crystal River Trail.

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In addition, the town plans to contribute $450,000 and Garfield County agreed to $100,000.

The 7.8 acres of riverfront land includes the boat ramp and a small parking area and turnaround. The upper bench was operated as the Sopris RV Park by the Koziel family. The RV park was vacated after the town put the property under contract earlier this summer.

The purchase is set to close next month. However, an impasse between the town and DOW could put the acquisition in jeopardy.

Adding some urgency to the situation, if the remaining GOCO grant funds aren’t spent by the end of the year, they could be lost, according to Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Director Dale Will.

Before it releases its share of the funds, the DOW has asked Carbondale to forgo a kayak park involving the Koziel property, as well as other upstream lands also owned by the town, Will explained at an Open Space and Trails board meeting in Redstone last week.

The division is concerned about preserving angler parking and access to the river, which is its impetus for contributing to the purchase of the property.

But Jackel said he believes the town can still work out an agreement with the agency that would respect its interests and still preserve the town’s desire to someday develop a kayak park in the vicinity.

“One of the first things we would do is develop that boat ramp area to enhance the fishing opportunities,” Jackel said. “Initially, we would want to pave the boat ramp and parking lot and put in some type of toilet facilities.”

The second priority for the town would be to come up with some use for the upper bench where the RV park was located.

The town has long envisioned a “gateway park” for the area near the intersection of Highways 82 and 133, including the boat launch, riverfront parks and trails, improved access to the nearby Red Hill Recreation Area, and potentially a whitewater park on the river.

The town wishes to preserve the parcel for river access but in that effort wants to accommodate kayakers as well as anglers, according to an Aug. 23 letter from town attorney Mark Hamilton to the DOW.

Carbondale has also been actively seeking recreational water rights for a kayak park and has spent nearly $80,000 on those proceedings, Hamilton’s letter indicated.

But, “Is it a big priority for the town to develop a whitewater park? No,” said Jackel. “The town just wants to have the ability at some future date to pursue that opportunity.”

He said he hopes the town can sit down with the DOW and work out an agreement where the division would have to concur before development of a whitewater park could take place.

DOW Director Tom Remington was also tentatively planning to visit the Carbondale-area site this week to gather information. He was not planning to meet with local officials at this time, however, according to DOW External Relations Manager Theo Stein.

jstroud@postindependent.com