If everything goes according to plan, Rifle's river enthusiasts can look forward to improved Colorado River access with the installation of a new boat ramp, public park and trails, better parking and rest room facilities.
"The Colorado River is the most underutilized natural asset Rifle has," said Helen Rogers of Rifle. "To gain better access to the river is a high priority, proven through recent studies the city of Rifle has undergone. People want better access. As an avid river rat, I've been working and pushing for it for some time."
The idea came out of the city's visitor improvement fund board of directors, Rogers said, of which she is a member.
The project, which will be funded with the city's lodging tax dollars plus Great Outdoors Colorado grant money, has proposed leasing property along the Colorado River from the Colorado Department of Transportation. The cost of the lease to the city, according to Rogers, is expected to be "minimal."
The estimated cost of the entire project is $288,000, not including the additional expense for construction of "vaulted," or permanent, full-service, rest rooms requested by CDOT.
The project will eventually tie in to the proposed Lower Valley Trails system as part of a trail along the Colorado River corridor from Glenwood Springs to the Mesa County line.
"Working with the city, this is an area where the trail, one day, will go through," said Larry Dragon, director of the Lower Valley Trails Association.
Located just downstream from the current boat ramp, the new site was chosen "because of the old-growth cottonwoods along the river, underutilized land and the proximity to town," Rogers explained.
"CDOT has been involved with the project early on and this location worked for them so as not to mix truck traffic with recreational traffic. The original [proposed] site was further downstream, past the rest area," Rogers said. "We thought it would be nice to have a looped trail within the area for those seeking the experience of natural habitat along the river."
For now, self-proclaimed river rats and other residents will have to exercise patience.
"We have not established a time table yet," Rogers said.
The next step in the project is to get the lease agreement with CDOT. Once that is complete, proponents of the project can proceed with grants and further permitting with the Army Corps of Engineers.