City scouts $1 million whitewater park
Post Independent Staff
A million-dollar whitewater playground on the Colorado River through the heart of Glenwood Springs would provide new recreational opportunities, attract tourists, enhance fishing, boost the local economy, shore up eroding riverbanks and even help control noxious weeds.
That was the heart of the proposal from whitewater park builders Gary Lacy of Boulder and Mike Harvey of Salida, presented at a meeting Wednesday at City Hall.
The whitewater park would run from just below the Grand Avenue Bridge to the Devereux Road Bridge, flowing past Two Rivers Park and embracing the confluence of the Colorado and the Roaring Fork rivers.
“Hopefully this project will move forward after this point,” Lacy said as he explained the conceptual plan. So far, the park has enjoyed support from city leaders, whitewater enthusiasts and others. Few have publicly opposed the plan.
The plan features four “drop structures.” These are low rock walls in the river that raise the water level by a foot or two above the drop, and create a whitewater wave as the water races over the structure into a “drop pool” below.
On the Colorado River, the park would begin with a drop just downstream from the Grand Avenue Bridge. Below that, two “current deflectors” would send water swirling toward the center of the channel, creating eddy pools and sections of quiet water along the river banks.
Below that, there would be a “double-crested” drop below the Two Rivers Park pedestrian bridge that would join up to another drop structure across the mouth of the Roaring Fork, creating a total of three drop pools.
The final drop structure would be at the existing mid-channel island just before the Devereux Bridge. The narrow channel on the other side of the island would be deepened and enhanced with current deflectors to create a “slalom course.”
In addition to all of the above work, large round boulders would be placed in the river throughout the course.
The in-river improvements would be accompanied by work to the river banks to repair erosion and prevent further damage to the banks, while also creating spectator areas and better access to the river.
“The thought would be to incorporate stabilization of the bank with a feature,” Lacy said.
Three phases for construction
The proposal divides the park’s construction into three phases.
The first phase, would include the uppermost drop pool at the current hot pots site, two bank deflectors and the two drops at the confluence area, costing $395,700.
The second phase includes three current deflectors, several rocks in the main part of the river and some major bank restoration, costing $255,250.
The third phase includes the last drop structure, some deflectors and improvements to the island near Devereux Bridge, costing $349,500.
The phases could be built all at once or one at a time and the city could decide exactly how much of the plan it wants to implement.
While doing the bank improvements, Lacy and Harvey would also remove the noxious tamarisk, which has grown into an invasive problem along that part of the river.
Other existing problems with the river, such as the unsightly area where the Hot Springs Pool water empties into the river and a spot below that, where a large rectangular piece of concrete – an old bridge foundation – remains in the river, will be cleaned up and incorporated into the park.
The concrete piece would become a deflector. Water from the Hot Springs Pool would flow out of the upstream drop structure.
A spot for spectators at Two Rivers Park
The centerpiece of the park would be built around the pedestrian bridge that overlooks the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.
“It’s a great area,” Lacy said. “It’s a really interesting area and the confluence of two major rivers.”
He envisions the three drop pools in that area – two in the Colorado River and one at the end of the Roaring Fork.
“There’s almost 360-degree viewing for spectators,” Lacy said.
After boaters come through the confluence area, they can play on several waves made by large boulders as they float by the restored bank. They’ll enjoy one more drop pool in the main stem of the Colorado and on a side channel – a possible slalom site.
“That would be great for learning how to kayak,” Harvey said.
Harvey and Lacy pointed out that all structures would allow all types of vessels that now navigate the river to continue to do so. Also, all features will be built with everyone in mind, from professional freestyle kayakers to tire-tube riders.
“Safety has to be No. 1, because every knucklehead in the world is going to be coming down it on his head,” Lacy said.
If the park is built as the two park builders envision it, Lacy and Harvey said it has the potential to be one of the best in the world.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.