The city of Rifle and the board of its Visitor Improvement Fund are working with the Colorado Department of Transportation to develop a 12-acre park and boat ramp on the Colorado River.
Colorado River Engineering has developed designs for the new riverside park that include a boat ramp, a paved parking lot and a small trail system on the land between Lion Park Circle and the Colorado River. The company has submitted a preliminary design to CDOT for the lease approval process.
The new facility would replace the existing boat ramp, which is about a quarter mile east on Lion Park Circle, closer to the Rifle I-70 interchange. The new site is also west and downstream from the historic Camelback Truss Bridge.
The city of Rifle is working out a lease agreement with CDOT, which owns the 12-acre parcel of land slated for new river access.
Helen Rogers, a life-long river use enthusiast and chair of the Rifle Visitor Improvement Fund, instigated the project three years ago.
Rogers said she was tired of the dangerous boat maneuvers required to take out at Rifle's present boat ramp.
"One of the many reasons for wanting to relocate the ramp is because the change in the river flow has made it very difficult to maneuver around the bridge pylons to access the ramp," she said. "It's also just an old and corroded ramp that can be very dangerous."
Rifle's Visitor Improvement Fund paid for advance environmental studies and design work totalling $20,436, Rogers said, and the board expects to spend around $15,000 for engineering and permitting this year.
Steve Dahmer, environmental engineer with Environmental Solutions Inc., said less than one-eighth of an acre of wetlands would be impacted by the project. A wetlands permit application is also pending before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Preliminary cost estimates for building the boat ramp, parking lots, access road, landscaping and foot trail is $288,000, Rogers said.
But as part of the lease agreement, CDOT officials are also requesting that the facility be outfitted with permanent restrooms, a drinking fountain and outdoor lighting. Rogers said Colorado River Engineering is developing cost estimates for those added features.
Once the total project costs are in hand, Rogers plans to apply for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant later this year, and she will seek local match funds from local government entities. If funding comes through, construction could occur in 2013, she said.
Building a safe, spacious boat ramp would deliver economic advantages, said Rifle Parks and Recreation Director Aleks Briedis.
"The city's economic opportunity analysis stated that the river is an underutilized resource, so this new amenity will not only be a great asset to residents but it will also bring tourists who will shop and stay in our community," Briedis said.
"This new boat ramp design will create a safer launch and provide adequate parking. A trail loop is included in the design allowing everyone, not just the boat ramp users, to enjoy the beautiful Colorado River," he added.
An improved boat ramp would also better connect Rifle to other communities on the Colorado River, building on the popularity of boating in the region.
In 2011, Colorado Parks and Wildlife built a new boat ramp at Cottonwood Park in Parachute. It's made the Colorado River more accessible for fishing, rafting, kayaking and canoeing, said Robert Knight, Parachute town administrator.
The Parachute ramp is 17 miles downriver from Rifle.
"We have nice new ramp with an eddy that divides access from the river's main current, which has been good for river users," Knight said. "If Rifle gets a new ramp, this section of the river could potentially have great access and be integral part of river use for the Colorado River."