Roaring Fork Conservancy breaking ground on $3.3-million river center in Basalt |

Roaring Fork Conservancy breaking ground on $3.3-million river center in Basalt

Scott Condon | The Aspen Times
The Roaring Fork Conservancy is breaking ground on its 3,800-square-foot river center. The goal is to open the new headquarters in one year.
Harry Teague Architects/courtesy image |

A nonprofit organization that protects the Roaring Fork Valley’s rivers, streams and wetlands is celebrating a watershed event of its own this week.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy will hold an official groundbreaking of its $3.3 million river center at 3 p.m. Friday. The public is invited to the ceremony at the site adjacent to Old Pond Park and just west of Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center.

Rick Lofaro, who has been with the organization for 20 of its 21 years and has been the executive director for 12 years, said the long-anticipated construction of the 3,800-square-foot river center represents a coming of age for the conservancy. Instead of being shoehorned into rented space, it will have an office, laboratory and exhibit space within a stone’s throw of the Roaring Fork River, Old Pond and associated wetlands.

“We’ll have nature’s classroom right out the back door,” Lofaro said.

“We’ll have nature’s classroom right out the back door.” — Rick Lofaro

The river center will be a headquarters for action-oriented, science-based watershed education for all ages, according to conservancy materials. The new facility will host water-related educational seminars, meetings and classes. Its laboratory will provide space for citizen science, river research and analysis. It will be a hub for planning and carrying out stream restoration initiatives and river science projects.

The conservancy always has been effective at a boots-on-the-ground approach to education. It has several programs that get school-aged children on rivers, streams and ponds. Already it holds educational programs for about 7,000 kids annually, Lofaro said. It will aim to build on that record with the new facility.

The conservancy also will launch the Watershed Institute, a nonpartisan forum that will seek collaboration on water policy and management issues facing the American West.

“It should be where top people come and educate us about water issues,” Lofaro said.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy was created in 1996 to work on water quantity issues, water quality and health of wetlands. Its creation was tied to Basalt town government’s approval of the Roaring Fork Club. The conservancy has always been located in Basalt.

The organization announced plans for the river center in 2003 and started negotiations to acquire land from the town. Fundraising was hampered by the recession. The conservancy also pared down its proposal to broaden its appeal.

Although the official groundbreaking is Friday, work started June 26. Harry Teague Architects designed the building. Koru is the contractor. Integrated Development Solutions is the owner’s representative.

Construction should take about one year. Lofaro said the conservancy hopes to host a grand opening at this time in July 2018.

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