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Council sends whitewater park west

Dennis Webb

Glenwood Springs could get a new whitewater park as early as next year, but not at the central location favored by the facility’s backers.City Council Thursday night voted 5-2 to build a park on the Colorado River in the area of the Interstate 70 interchange in West Glenwood, rather than at the Two Rivers Park location sought by park supporters.Council members argued that it was better to move forward on a West Glenwood location than look at conducting engineering studies and facing potential legal action from the Hot Springs Pool over potential threats to the pool aquifer from a Two Rivers Park facility.Council member Dave Merritt said Two Rivers Park also is heavily used already.”I think we don’t need to bring this controversy on,” Merritt said.Members of the city’s whitewater park task force say Two Rivers Park is the ideal location for the facility, with parking, restrooms, and a central location that could be a venue for premier whitewater events.John Sikora, a water resource engineer, spoke on behalf of the location, saying that a past federal study suggests a park there would have no impact on the pool aquifer. He cited the results of pump tests on a well in the vicinity, and the lack of impact on the aquifer by other wells drilled in the vicinity, a Grand Avenue Bridge pylon in the river, and even construction of the Hot Springs Lodge & Pool adjacent to the springs.”This stuff can be done safely,” Sikora said.But pool officials fear that construction of the park and scouring by the waves that the park would create could puncture the shallow aquifer containing the springs.Scott Balcomb, a pool board member and water attorney, said past research by the pool shows the aquifer would be vulnerable if the park were built at Two Rivers Park. He said the same well pumped in the federal test has been shown to deplete the aquifer if allowed to flow long enough.”We’re still willing to find a place to put this thing, but putting the aquifer at risk is just not good judgment,” Balcomb said.Council member Joe O’Donnell agreed.”We can’t afford to make the wrong decision. We can’t afford to endanger our biggest tourist attraction,” he said.Council members Chris McGovern and Bruce Christensen said Two Rivers Park would be their preferred location for the park, but they thought it was better to move the project forward.”I would hope that if we do this everybody can get behind it and make it the best that we can have,” said Christensen, a longtime supporter of the park project.Mayor Larry Emery, who also has long favored the concept, expressed disappointment at what he considered a reversal of course by park enthusiasts. He said they had indicated they would sit down with pool officials and mutually agree on a location, but later went back to insisting on the Two Rivers Park location.”I thought we had a pretty good understanding. I thought we knew exactly where we were a couple of weeks ago,” he said.But task-force chairman Joe Mollica said discussions with the pool resulted in the pool insisting on a location east of the Horseshoe Bend area near the No Name Tunnel in Glenwood Canyon, west of the Interstate 70 interchange in West Glenwood, or at least 1,320 feet upstream on the Roaring Fork River.”I’ve reached an impasse when you’ve eliminated an entire town” from consideration, Mollica said.Council members Dan Richardson and Larry Beckwith opposed the vote to move the park downstream. Richardson said he resented the fact that the city was making a decision after being threatened by the pool with a lawsuit if it proceeded with engineering studies for a Two Rivers Park location.”It’s unfortunate it’s come to this,” he said.But Christensen said he’s not supporting the West Glenwood location out of fear of litigation.”I’m supporting it because I think it’s the right thing to do right now,” he said.McGovern said one drawback to Two Rivers Park is what she considers to be a lack of adequate parking even for current uses. Christensen said the West Glenwood location might provide an opportunity for the city to create new park facilities in a city that needs more of them.”There are other opportunities that maybe we can make lemonade out of this,” Christensen said.He said a park could be built as soon as next year, but it would depend on whether supporters go along with the location.Task-force member Bob Guska said enthusiasts would have to take a closer look at the location before deciding whether to endorse it, but the city was giving up its chance for a world-class facility at Two Rivers Park.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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