Trees, trailers stripped from Pan & Fork in Basalt |

Trees, trailers stripped from Pan & Fork in Basalt

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
The former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park has been transformed into a temporary wasteland as Basalt town government prepares half the site as a riverside park and the other half for potential development. This view looks to the southeast at Midland Avenue Bridge from Two Rivers Road.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

The former site of Basalt’s Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park looks like a tornado ripped through it — leaving behind uprooted trees with mangled trunks and debris strewn among dirt piles across Two Rivers Road from Town Hall.

The town government has removed all but a handful of the 37 residences that were once in the park. The remaining trailers will be hauled away or demolished in the coming days.

The sight is a drastic contrast to when the towering willows lined a spring-fed ditch running through the park and there was a messy vitality mix of ramshackle old trailers and more distinguished newer ones.

The town reached financial relocation agreements with the residents, hired a contractor to remove any trailers that weren’t hauled away or demolished by former owners and knocked down the trees.

The removal of the trees spurred about six calls or emails to Town Hall from people with concerns or inquiries, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. “You’re likely to get calls about trees on the Pan and Fork being removed,” he warned the mayor and council members in a memo Tuesday. “We have removed most of them along Two Rivers.”

Most of the trees had to be removed because the town is raising part of the property out of the floodplain, Scanlon said. A contractor hired by the town is restoring a 1,000-foot stretch of the Roaring Fork River bed downstream from the Midland Avenue Bridge. Tons of cobble that accumulated in that stretch were removed and are being used as fill to raise the portion of the Pan and Fork closest to Two Rivers Road, according to Larry Thompson, the town engineer. Additional material will be used to raise the future site of Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center and office building. It will be constructed where the Taqueria el Nopal restaurant is located.

Between 2,000 and 2,500 cubic yards of rocks, stones and sand were removed from the riverbed, Thompson said. That’s the equivalent of up to 250 dump-truck loads.

Funding to accelerate the work was approved by voters last year, so the transformation of the site shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise.

The fill required to change the flood elevation would have covered the trunks and killed the trees, Scanlon wrote in his memo to the council.

“Saving trees and increasing the flood elevations are cross purposes,” Scanlon said. “You can’t do both.”

In addition, a sewer pipe is being laid through the property, roughly following the ditch that supplied water to the willows, Scanlon said. That pipe will be covered, eliminating the ditch that was a source of water for the thirsty willows. Even if the willows had been saved, half of their root balls would have been destroyed as part of the pipeline work, according to Scanlon.

Trees near the intersection of Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue were saved as well as some on the part of the property closest to the river. That half of the site will become a town park.

Thompson said removing the cobble from the riverbed would increase the main channel’s capacity to handle high water, thus easing flood risk.

In addition, the riverbank was stabilized on the south side after the water had eaten away at it for years. Large rocks were used to armor the south bank just downstream from Midland Avenue Bridge.

The town and its contractor, American Civil Constructors, consulted with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on restoration of a south channel of the river, directly in front of the library. Two islands create the channel. The cobble bar between them was beefed up and stabilized to create one longer island that will, in theory, permanently separate the main and south channels.

Large rocks were placed at the mouth of the south channel to limit the inflow of water. The idea is to keep enough water flowing to create a prized trout spawning habitat, Thompson said, but not so much water during runoff that trout won’t remain in the channel.

The work was part of the permit approved by the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers.

The contractor will tackle the north bank of the river in August. A dike that was built up over decades to protect the Pan and Fork from floodwaters will be dismantled. The river will be allowed to swell farther into what was the trailer park and will become an open space park, Thompson said.

The town’s permit prohibits work in the river between March 1 and Aug. 15.

Most of the work will be completed in 2014, including expansion of wetlands between the old Pan and Fork site and the Taqueria site, Thompson said. Another half-acre of wetlands will be added on the south side of the river.

The town will undertake extensive planning of the riverside park in 2015, according to Thompson. Scanlon’s memo to the council said Town Horticulturist Lisa DiNardo would be consulted to determine the appropriate tree varieties to be planted by the river and in what places.

Scanlon said the site will look better than ever, with a little patience.