Rifle council votes to buy Paradise Island with plans for a whitewater park | PostIndependent.com

Rifle council votes to buy Paradise Island with plans for a whitewater park

Paradise Island is one step closer to becoming a public attraction for the city of Rifle.

Rifle City Council on April 21 voted unanimously to purchase the island, located in the middle of the Colorado River north of the Rifle Rest Area, for $400,000.

The purchase includes two parcels that encompass the majority of the land. The majority of which are owned by one party in Aspen and one out of state — Paradise Island LLC and Kasia M. Bickel, respectively.

“The sellers really just want to liquidate,” City attorney Jim Neu said. “They want to get rid of the property.”

Once the land is fully acquired by the city, it will be maintained as space for wildlife, recreation and future development, which includes resource extraction and river ecological education purposes. Future space for housing and businesses is also being proposed.

The island itself will be preserved as a wildlife habitat area as well as an area for riparian restoration. Primitive hiking, biking and birding trails will be installed, while the city also intends to possibly erect a footbridge to the north and south of the island

To the south of the island, a section of the river will then be developed into a whitewater zone. The section will include the installation of man-made waves, holes, eddies, other whitewater features, as well as a Kayak slalom course. A walking path with benches and water access will also be made available.

Toward the east, a section of the river will be rendered into a flatwater and family zone. This section will also provide various opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Toward the south of the family zone, the city intends on reserving space for future development. This will include possible future space for housing and businesses, dining and active space near the river and bridge. In addition, the city plans to balance future development with park and open spaces, while swapping truck parking to be closer to Interstate 70.

The purchase, however, is based on the condition that the city obtains a right of first refusal agreement. This allows a buyer and seller to enter into an arrangement by which the potential buyer is given the first crack at a property when it goes up for sale.

The city will also submit a $20,000 earnest payment to preserve its right to purchase the property. An appraisal of the property will be completed by May, with a deadline to object to appraisal by June 1. The closing date is also scheduled for Aug. 31.

Meanwhile, Neu said the city, which was recently denied a GOCO grant through Great Outdoors Colorado, will apply for another GOCO grant. The availability of the grant, however, is currently unknown since the program is being restructured.

“I would hate to have us close on Aug. 31 knowing there was a September GOCO grant, that we could get some money for the purchase,” Neu said.

The contract with the landowners, however, will be extended until Dec. 31 in the event grant dates are published.

“They are very amenable to the city trying to get another GOCO grant,” Neu said.

The only snag: the city would have to increase the earnest money to $100,000, which becomes non-refundable if the city does not close for any reason.

“I’m totally for going ahead with first right of refusal or not,” council member Clint Hostettler said.

Earlier this month, Scott Brynildson said he owned a small portion of the island but was never informed of the deal. He voiced his opposition to the purchase.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” he said. “I’ve been in a lot of real estate deals and I’ve never been in one where there was never an appraisal done. Everybody requires an appraisal and I don’t see any reason why the city needs that (property)… you’re going to get yourself in a bind.”

Chuck Caron, who owns property north of Paradise Island, also voiced opposition to the purchase.

“I opposed the purchase until us landowners would really have a clear plan of what’s going to take place.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

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