Post Independent Opinion: Preserving city’s confluence area is right way to go |

Post Independent Opinion: Preserving city’s confluence area is right way to go

Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The Glenwood Springs City Council last week unanimously passed a resolution that states a preference to keep the confluence area of downtown off-limits to a future Highway 82 bypass.

The resolution is a nonbinding policy statement that could be overturned by future councils.

Nonetheless, it endorses a vision for redevelopment of the confluence area as a “riverwalk” destination combining park land, eateries and shopping in a setting that would attract locals and tourists.

It also demonstrated the leadership of this council by clearly stating a policy favoring a constructive mix of uses for the confluence, even though the ultimate decisions about this area are months, if not years, away.

The confluence proper is a triangle of land just west of the downtown area, bounded by the Colorado River to the north, the Roaring Fork River to the west, and Seventh Street to the south.

The council resolution also seeks to protect the area along the Roaring Fork River for several blocks south to 13th Street.

The confluence area is currently dominated by the city’s wastewater treatment plant, an odiferous facility that has precluded most other uses. Also located within the lower confluence triangle is the Farnum-Holt Funeral Home, the Union Pacific Railroad’s wye tracks and berms, a large all-day parking lot, and a stretch of the River Trail linking downtown to Two Rivers Park.

But change is coming to the confluence.

Sometime in 2012, the wastewater treatment functions will move to the large new plant being built on the Chatfield Ranch in extreme West Glenwood. Except for a large lift station at the east end of the parking lot, a huge swath of city-owned land in the confluence area will open up for new uses.

One option would be to redevelop the area as a pedestrian-friendly extension of downtown, with ground-level shops and restaurants, second-story apartments and offices, and plenty of relaxing outdoor space to enjoy the river and scenery.

Another option would be to build a Highway 82 bypass through the confluence, taking advantage of the surprisingly straight line from the existing I-70 interchange south to the Rio Grande right of way along the Roaring Fork River.

Bypass advocates have long called for this option as a means of removing traffic from Grand Avenue, restoring quiet and calm along the city’s main drag all the way to 23rd Street.

These are two clear and opposing choices, and the council resolution lands firmly in favor of the first option. The present council has taken a strong, positive and beneficial step by passing this resolution and clearly stating this vision.

People live in Glenwood Springs and visit Glenwood Springs because it is a place of natural beauty. Redeveloping the confluence area for enjoyable uses by people, instead of as a thoroughfare for cars and trucks, is the right way to go.

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