South Platte: River Run Park set for summer opening

Oxford Reach Whitewater Park Looking Upstream Toward Oxford Avenue via Arapahoe County.
Oxford Reach Whitewater Park Looking Upstream Toward Oxford Avenue via Arapahoe County.

From The Denver Post (Joe Rubino):

Local officials are anticipating the summer opening of a park along the South Platte River that will provide some fresh opportunities for a cooldown.

River Run at Oxford will be a multifaceted park and trailhead offering access to the metro area’s river, improved riparian habitat and unique recreational and educational opportunities officials hope will make it a regional draw.

The site is just west of Broken Tee Golf Course, along West Oxford Avenue on the Sheridan-Englewood border. When the first phase of the estimated $14 million project opens this summer, it will bring a rocky beach, in-water recreation features and a picnic pavilion with flush-toilet bathrooms to the east bank of the Platte, as well as improvements to ensure safer flood flow passage and a state-of-the-art sand filter for water running into the river.

“The point of this project was to engage the river for recreation but also from an ecological and function standpoint, as well as education,” said Laura Kroeger, an engineer with Urban Drainage and Flood Control Districtand manager of the River Run project.

Last week, earth movers shuffled boulders along the river bank as crews with contractor Naranjo Civil Constructors worked on a pair of drop structures that will create features for kayaking, paddleboards or inner tubes. One of the structures includes an adjustable concrete plate that can create a standing wave, a feature that Kroeger said exists only in one other place in the country, to her knowledge.

“Right now, if you want to kayak or play in the river , you would need a flow of about 1,000 (cubic feet per second) and that might only happen a few days a year,” she said of water flows required for river recreation. “With this, we can adjust the drop structure based on the release from Chatfield Reservoir to get more use. It’s designed for 200 cfs.”

River Run is about half a mile from the Oxford Avenue light-rail station and a short walk from the Englewood Recreation Center. The golf course is nearby and its parking lot has grown by 70 spaces to accommodate future River Run visitors.

Englewood has publicly accessible water at the lake at Centennial Park, but city open space manager Dave Lee said, “I think river access is the big thing we’ve never had before.”

“That’s one of the reasons people want to live in Colorado — for these unique opportunities,” added Dorothy Hargrove, Englewood’s director of parks, recreation and library.

The project continues to evolve. Kroeger said partners are pursuing funding to add safety signs as well as educational information to help teachers from area schools who could bring students to River Run to learn about riparian habitat.

River Run has two future phases: completion of a trail along the east side of the Platte, connecting it to the Big Dry Creek Trail near Union Avenue; and additional upstream flow improvements. It should conclude in 2018, Kroeger said.

Kroeger and others applauded the collaboration that went into the large-scale project. Aside from the cities and Urban Drainage, the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Arapahoe County Parks and Open Space are partners.

Arapahoe County Open Spaces grants and acquisitions manager, Josh Tenneson, said that collaboration dates to 2006 when the 21-member South Platte Working Group was convened. The group has allocated more than $25 million to various projects, including recent work at Littleton’s South Platte Park and the upcoming Reynold’s Landing Park project. All told, the county has dedicated around $5 million to River Run, he said.

Sheridan recently secured a $350,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant to build a playground at the River Run trailhead. Sheridan City Manager Devin Granbery said he could see the park delighting city residents and boosting business at the city’s marquee shopping area, nearby River Point at Sheridan.

“I think it will serve as a regional draw similar to the way that (Denver’s) Confluence Parkdraws users into that area,” Granbery said. “Hopefully, after people use the amenities there, they’ll eat at a Sheridan restaurant or do some shopping.”

Eagle approves sales tax for river park project — The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

Surf’s up in Eagle.

Eagle residents overwhelmingly approved a sales tax increase to fund a river park project in a record-turnout election for the town.

The 20-year, half-percent sales tax increase to 4.5 percent will spark development of a $12 million riverpark project designed to transform a dirt parking lot used by truckers into a gateway for the growing town.

In a record turnout election for Eagle — spurred in part by an abundance of yard signs urging support for Ballot Question 1 — voters approved the measure 962 to 589. The project includes a whitewater park for kayakers and stand-up paddlers and terraced fields designed to lure passersby off Interstate 70 and into town. The hope is the project spurs mixed-use development on private land between the park and Eagle’s historic downtown.

“This is total validation for what’s going on right now in Eagle,” said Mayor Yuri Kostick, noting the proliferation of mountain bike trails that has elevated his town as a biking destination.

Kostick was heading over to the Bonfire Brewery, which served as an informal headquarters for river park supporters.

“It’s going to be such a sweet scene,” he said.

Eagle River
Eagle River

Rio Grande: Increased river access planned for reach near Del Norte

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

For more than 130 years, the Rio Grande as it flows through this town on the west side of the San Luis Valley has been a working river.

It’s here, where the San Juan Mountain foothills meet the San Luis Valley floor, that irrigation canals begin pulling off the river to water the barley, potatoes and alfalfa that drive the region’s agricultural economy.

But a coalition of groups is looking to add a little play to that equation by making a roughly half-mile stretch of the river more accessible to the public for fishing, some boating and a little water play.

“It’s an iconic river in the history of the U.S. and yet people don’t spend time there,” said Marty Asplin, co-director of Upper Rio Grande Economic Development.

And while there is hope the Del Norte Riverfront Project will bolster tourism for local businesses, its thrust will be drawing the town’s roughly 1,600 residents to the river.

At a recent fundraiser for the project, organizers found that sentiment while gathering input for a vision statement.

“Some people just wrote, very simply, ‘I want a place to take my kids,’ “ said Heather Dutton of the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project.

Improving access to the river will take place on top of two basic building blocks.

The town government, which is a partner in the project, already owns riverfront property, and a roughly quarter-mile cement trail runs along the river from the nearby town park.

Second, Colorado Parks and Wildlife installed a fishing pier 20 years ago near the park, carved out a fishing hole along the pier and installed a rock structure just upstream in an effort to improve fish habitat.

Kevin Terry of Trout Unlimited said project planners and CPW will take another look at the “W” rock feature, and possibly replace it with a more modern one that could both improve fish habitat and serve as a play feature for small rafts, paddle boards and inner-tubers, depending on the level of stream flows.

“Right from the beginning on this project we want to work with them to get the best of both worlds,” Terry said.

A boat ramp, installed just downstream of the Colorado 112 bridge, would be a second element of the project.

And Terry said that site could also be home to a beach area.

It would be perfect for kids in the low flow conditions of late summer and early fall because it sits at the end of long, slow-moving pool, he said.

The project would also look at adding smaller, hardened access points upstream from the boat ramp.

Rio Grande River
Rio Grande River

South Platte River Run Park south of Denver to provide watercraft amenities

From BusinessDen.com (George Dempoulos):

“If you build it, they will come,” said [Ben Nielsen], an engineer at Denver’s McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, a subsidiary Merrick & Co. “I think these projects make a market for activities like stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, really anything having to do with any kind of watercraft. I don’t think it’s a huge leap of faith to say that this park will help make a surfing market in Denver.”

Nielsen and his team plan to redevelop a half-mile stretch of the South Platte River, just north of Union Avenue, into a park with a jungle gym, trail system and underwater ramps for river surfing. The $14 million complex, called “River Run Park,” aims to add six surfable waves to the Platte once it’s complete in spring 2017.

The first phase, which is under construction and set to open this year, will feature ramps on the bottom of the riverbed that create waves by diverting the water’s flow. One of the ramps, called a “waveshaper,” has hydraulic pumps that can change its angle in order to alter the size of the waves.

The second phase, which will include a trailhead, fish habitat and four more wave features, will begin construction this year and is slated for completion in 2017.

The project is being funded through grants from Arapahoe County, the City of Englewood and the State of Colorado, Nielsen said. Get Outdoors Colorado (GoCO), a public institution that uses proceeds from lottery sales to fund outdoor projects, will vote on a resolution to fund the project next month.

Surfing rivers is different from riding the massive waves off the coast of Hawaii or California. For one, river surfers don’t actually move down the river while they ride. The waves from the underwater ramps push surfers in the opposite direction of the river’s flow, keeping them essentially in the same spot.

And river surfboards differ in design from their ocean counterparts. River boards generally use more fiberglass in their construction because they have to stand up to rocky riverbeds.

Oxford Reach Whitewater Park Looking Upstream Toward Oxford Avenue via Arapahoe County.
Oxford Reach Whitewater Park Looking Upstream Toward Oxford Avenue via Arapahoe County.

Forecast calls for rafting on Dolores River — The Cortez Journal

Dolores River near Bedrock
Dolores River near Bedrock

From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

McPhee Reservoir managers announced Friday that the forecast calls for a whitewater release below McPhee Dam.

“The forecast shows a 22-day whitewater season,” said Bureau of Reclamation engineer Vern Harrell. “But it is a 50-50 probability, so it is not guaranteed it will materialize.”

Based on this year’s impressive snowpack in the mountains, runoff forecasts show the reservoir will fill, and there will be 68,000 acre-feet available for a spill into the lower Dolores River.

Here is the plan if the snowpack holds:

On May 17, flows below the dam would be increased to 500 cubic feet per second. It would ramp up to 900 on May 18, then 1,300 cfs on May 19, and 1,500 cfs on May 20.

From May 21-25, the plan is to max out the flows at 2,000 cfs, then they will drop slightly to 1,800 cfs from May 26 to June 1 for the Memorial Day weekend.

On June 2 flows will be reduced to 1,400, cfs, drop 1,000 cfs on June 3, to 800 cfs on June 4 and 5, to 600 cfs on June 6 and 7, to 400 cfs for June 8 and 9, then 200 cfs for June 10 and 11.

Minimal rafting flows is 600-800 cfs, and for kayaks it is 300-400 cfs. Tubing could be done at 200 cfs.The boating community is excited, but cautious, said Josh Munson, vice president of the Dolores River Boating Advocates…

There has not been a whitewater release below the dam since 2011.

The surge of water into the lower canyon will benefit the natural environment, Munson said, and create an economic boon to the area as recreational boaters descend to the various launch sites.

Water park for Eagle?

Eagle circa 2010
Eagle circa 2010

From the Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

As Eagle contemplates a plan to develop a water park — complete with in-stream features, beaches, trails and green space at what is currently the truck parking area west of Chambers Park and east of the Eagle County Fairgrounds — the town organized a panel discussion featuring representatives from Colorado towns that have completed their own park projects. This week, a large crowd of Eagle residents gathered to hear about Colorado communities that were transformed by their river park developments. Representatives from Salida, Buena Vista and Golden shared their respective experiences, offered advice as Eagle looks at its own river project and generally shared the notion that great river spaces make great towns even better.

Salida businessman and Arkansas River Trust member Mike Harvey noted that the community is historically a railroad town, and while boat races on the river date back to the 1940s, the waterway was not truly integrated into the community. However, once the trust was formed in the late 1990s, Salida was able to attract grant money for river park projects.

“What has really happened over the past 15 years is the Arkansas River has become a focal point for our community,” said Harvey.

Businesses have sprung up along the river corridor, community events are planned along the riverbanks and the Arkansas has transformed into a community-defining amenity.

“The economic value of the river is significant. It has become the economic attraction for Chafee County,” said Kitson. “It’s not unusual to see 10 tubers, 20 fisherman and 40 rafts on the river on any given day.”

LOOKING FOR BEAUTY

In neighboring Buena Vista, developer Jed Selby saw the Arkansas River as the focus of his South Main development. The multi-use project features housing, retail and restaurant uses and has a strong focus on riverfront space.

“Our town had turned its back on the river,” said Selby.

The first part of his project was a river park, and Selby said he has learned a lot of lessons from his attempts to build perfect in-stream features to attract water sports enthusiasts.

“It’s one thing to have a wave. It’s another thing to have a spectacular wave,” he said. “We have kept at it year after year after year.”

OCCUPY CLEAR CREEK

Rod Tarullo, director of parks and recreation for the city of Golden, noted Clear Creek “has become the heart and soul of Golden.”

Tarullo noted for the past 18 years, the Clear Creek Park has become an integral part of the community, but when 2012 brought an exceptionally hot summer, the park proved almost too popular.

“We called it Occupy Clear Creek,” said Tarullo, while he shared a picture of an average day on the river that year which showed the waterway crowded with inner-tubes and the riverbanks teeming with people.

After that year, Golden undertook a massive master planning process for its popular amenity to make sure is was not loved to death. “We didn’t want to screw it up. We knew that it is something really good,” said Tarullo…

No one argued the potential of the plan, but some residents questioned the cost. The Eagle Town Board is contemplating a sales tax question for the April 5 municipal election that would increase the local tax by 0.5 percent to generate money for the initial phase of development. That tax is estimated to generate around $4 million over a 20-year period and the total park plan is estimated to cost around $10 million. Eagle hopes to attract grants and funding partners to complete the overall vision.

Dara MacDonald, city administrator for Salida, noted that river park development is expensive, but said it can also be the catalyst for broader economic development.

“Private investment follows public dollars,” she said. “There is so much more vitality in our downtown (since the river park development).”

“These river parks are more than water parks. They are magnets for people,” said Harvey.

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

DoloresRiverBoating.com: 3rd Annual Permit Party, Friday, January 15

doloresriverboatingadvocates01152016permitparty

From the announcement:

Join us Friday, January 15 for our 3rd Annual Permit Party and the film premiere of “River of Sorrow” by Rig to Flip. Doors open at 6PM and the film starts at 7. Live music by Last Nickel begins at 8. A silent auction with incredible gear and adventures (like a trip for 2 down the Yampa River!) will be held from 6 to 8:30. Tasty vittles from Absolute Bakery and beer from Dolores River Brewery will be available for purchase. Childcare and children’s activities will be provided so bring the whole family! Tickets are $10 at the door, $5 for students, and kids 12 and under are free! Don’t miss this incredible annual celebration of the Dolores River!