Rifle City Council discusses community survey results over potential options with Rifle Island Park
Results from a two-month community survey about what the city should do with Rifle Island Park reveal at least a 52% interest in turning it into a whitewater park, a survey specialist said.
Project Resource Studio, a Carbondale-based strategic communications and project consulting firm, was contracted by the city to perform the survey. The city also partnered with Denver-based water resources engineering firm Applegate Group, Inc. to complete the outreach and visioning process for the island, according to city documents.
Project Resource Studio Principal Kathleen Wanatowicz told Rifle City Council on Sept. 21 that the goal now is to identify development options and build a framework for the project’s next stages.
“You have an incredible opportunity here to create a recreational asset that doesn’t really exist,” she said.
The city originally purchased the island — otherwise known as Paradise Island — in late 2021 for about $400,000. The purpose of the purchase was to convert the untouched space into recreational opportunities, including the potential for a water park and other amenities.
After making the survey available to community members earlier this year, Wanatowicz said it resulted in 216 English- and nine Spanish-speaking participants. Nearly 95% of all survey takers live in Rifle or Garfield County.
Many said they wanted to see any potential developments include opportunities for biking, bird watching and nature tours.
Building a primitive hiking trail around the island alone would encompass about one mile, Rifle City Planning Director Patrick Waller said.
Residents who took the survey also did not show interest in any high-rise buildings going up or the area becoming dirty and being used as a place for temporary housing, Wanatowicz said.
“There’s a lot of hype around the waterpark,” she said.
She also said so far they’ve created an island advisory group made up of volunteer community members. They’ve met and discussed things like land ownership and transportation, water rights, floodplain hazard zones and wetlands overviews.
The Rifle Parks and Recreation Department has also been conducting meetings to address short- and long-term goals, financing options and project scopes of Rifle Island Park.
Wantawicz said they’ve come up with four options for Rifle Island Park:
- Maintain the island for open space
- Keep the island open seasonally with alternative access
- Have footbridge access with passive recreational opportunities like fishing and walking
- Do all of the above with the addition of a Colorado River water park, a project that can be completed in phases.
One idea is to create a beach on Rifle Island that would essentially connect to the downtown area. This includes the possibility of making multiple access points and building a footbridge.
Waller said, moving forward, the city is trying to obtain grant funding for potential building and use options for Rifle Island Park.
“There’s some really cool options,” he said. “But, can they actually happen or not?”
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