South Canyon planning discussion slated for Glenwood Springs’ council meeting
The Glenwood Springs City Council will begin piecing together the vision for South Canyon during Thursday night’s council meeting.
In addition to a natural hot springs area, the site includes the city landfill, a shooting range and vast unmanaged lands.There are no authorized camping sites in South Canyon, which is city owned, though that doesn’t stop folks from setting up illegal campsites throughout the area.
The city is working on developing 3,000 acres of designated parkland in South Canyon, which includes the hot springs pool known as Hippie Hot Springs.
Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Director Brian Smith said the city is looking to develop a bike trail system with the Alpine Loop, a proposed bike trail that would run through South Canyon along a historical alpine slide alignment.
“There used to be a little adventure park up here, which is where the Alpine Loop gets its name from,” Smith said.
As for development of the hot springs, which have tested unsafe due to high fecal bacteria levels, there’s a list of concerns that center around increased activity in the area.
“The main point of concern for residents in South Glenwood, or of anyone out here, is the fire danger,” Smith said as he eyed down a pickup truck dragging a metal chain behind it.
“That’s a fire hazard right there, and right now there is not a viable fire evacuation route. We have just one route, and unfortunately we have a lot of people that come up and utilize the hot springs, and we have a number of illegal fire pits.”
Smith said the city removed a fire pit near the gun range last week.
“This is a difficult area as far as enforcement goes for parks rules and regulations,” Smith said.
“This is designated parklands — about 3,000 acres — but it’s not within the Glenwood Springs Police Department’s jurisdiction. So, we have to partner with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office whenever there are code enforcement issues.”
Smith said health and safety issues are two major concerns with how the hot springs are currently used.
“This hot spring existed before. The city went in and tried to demolish it, but the public went in and rebuilt it,” Smith said. “It’s the perfect temperature for growing bacteria. It literally is a cesspool.”
Smith added that there’s no risk of the bacteria being concentrated enough to impact the Colorado River’s water quality.
“But it’s still dangerous for the users of the hot springs,” he said.
Bryana Starbuck, public information officer for the city, said city staff is working to create the vision of what a developed South Canyon would operate and look like.
“There’s a lot of things happening out here. We’ve got various recreational activities, we’ve got residents and fire concerns,” Starbuck said. “What we’re talking about on Thursday is sort of how to look at it as a whole and how to break it down into digestible pieces. So specifically one of the staff report recommendations is to look at the hot springs first, with respect to all the other concerns. You certainly can’t look at one thing without looking at it all.”
Smith said the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission has talked for years about doing a holistic South Canyon Plan.
“I think that’s very difficult to do and very expensive to do. Having manageable sections and doing it as a phased approach makes sense to me,” Smith said.
“We’re looking at how we can make sure that the public is involved in this, because there are so many other issues going on. All these things are integrated into each other; one area has an impact on everything else.”
Reporter Shannon Marvel can be reached at 605-350-8355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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