Parachute rec corridor takes shape
It’s been two years since the town of Parachute repealed its ban on marijuana establishments and already residents are directly seeing the benefits of that decision. As early as this summer the development of recreational activities throughout town will begin to take shape.
Outdoor recreation is the highest priority on the town’s economic development plan, and with the help of Garfield County, the town’s boat ramp, which will provide easy access to the Colorado River, should be ready by July. The boat ramp is the first piece to what will become the town’s recreation corridor.
The town also plans to develop a nearby gravel parking lot with trialheads, an island park with a pedestrian bridge for easy access.
The parking lot will not only be used for river-goers, but should allow residents and tourists to better use and access the hiking and ATV trails along the river and throughout town.
“There are trails around town that nobody knows about,” Town Manager Stuart McArthur explained. “There’s not great access and new trailheads and a parking lot will allow for much better access and awareness.”
With improved signage with distances and directions on sides along the trail, McArthur hopes that the boat ramp and parking will just be the start of the recreation corridor. The goal is to continue to expand it to allow for rafters, hikers, ATV users and anyone interested in exploring Parachute to have easy access to recreation activities throughout town.
There are also plans to place a rental shop in the parking lot for people to easily rent ATV and rafting equipment.
While the boat ramp and parking lot are expected to be completed by July, the rest of the project, including the pedestrian bridge, is “farther down the road,” McArthur said.
“We wouldn’t have the funding or financial resources possible to do it without retail marijuana dollars,” McArthur said. “It provides us with capital dollars to move forward with projects such as this.”
The decision to repeal Parachute’s ban on marijuana establishments was met with months of controversy, including failed votes to recall town councilors and to repeal the ordinance, but it’s helped the town’s finances not only catch its breath but rebound after a slump in natural gas development. Between 2015 and 2017, Parachute’s sales tax receipts grew by as much as 70 percent, which McArthur primarily attributed to marijuana sales, and in 2016 nearly 30 percent of the town’s tax receipts were from marijuana sales.
Neighboring businesses are growing because of the new industry, and while the decision remains controversial, it’s hard to argue its benefits for the small town.
“Marijuana bridges us across to get more outdoor recreation,” McArthur added. “There’s not a lot for teenagers and adults to do around here and we would like to improve that.”
Among the town’s most ambitious projects will be the island park where McArthur hopes to develop campsites, walking trails, sand volleybeach and a 18-hole Frisbee Golf course, all along the Colorado River. While the project will require grants and other money, McArthur said that is “farther down the road.”
In fact, the town had to cut back on its ramp and parking lot plans because of recent grant denials.