Kayakers may be able to park themselves in downtown Glenwood | PostIndependent.com

Kayakers may be able to park themselves in downtown Glenwood

As early as next spring, whitewater aficionados could be rolling on the river right through the heart of downtown Glenwood Springs.

The details aren’t yet finalized, but after gathering public input and looking at several possible locations on the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers, members of the city’s River Commission have decided to install the park on the north side – or boater’s right – of the Colorado River between Grand Avenue and Two Rivers Park.

“We’ll be putting in three to four river features on the main channel of the Colorado,” River Commission vice chairman Joe Mollica said.

The play areas will consist of rocks or other structures that will create waves and eddies for whitewater enthusiasts to ride on and play in.

“They’ll be designed so you can play in one spot,” he said.

Several concerns came to light during the public meetings, such as the park’s effect on fishing, whether other types of crafts such as rafts and dories can get through and whether the park would become “a Disney world.”

“We’re still going forward because we feel it would be something that would improve the river, not damage it,” Mollica said, adding that the park’s design will take all concerns into consideration.

Park planners still have a long list of chores to be completed before the park opens. A final plan for the park’s route and layout must be completed; large pieces of metal and concrete – parts of an old train bridge that brought trains to the old railyard at the modern-day location of Two Rivers Park – need to be removed; requests for proposals must be sent out; permits must be garnered; and volunteers must be recruited.

But if all goes well, the park could be finished by next spring’s runoff.

“We really want to do this right,” Mollica said.

Other plans for the park include removing noxious tamarisk trees, establishing new paths down to the river’s edge and restoring an oxbow area located on the north side of the river, just upstream from the Midland Avenue Bridge.

“Our first priority is to make sure the whitewater park is very safe. We’ll promote life jacket use,” he said.

Mollica also pointed out that the park should bring the city more tourist dollars.

Lori Hogan, tourism and marketing director for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, agreed, pointing to sales revenue increases of $1 million to $2.5 million in cities with whitewater parks.

“I think it’s really going to help us,” Hogan said. “Right now sales taxes are down. What we really need is something downtown.”

The increased revenues are generated across the board, she said, from restaurants and bars to grocery stores to hotel stays.

“We’re excited for it in terms of economic impact,” Hogan said.

A meeting on the park’s design is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Center.

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