Boat ramp project excites Rifle rafting supply business |

Boat ramp project excites Rifle rafting supply business

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Staff Photo |

Talk to Mark and Kathleen Proctor of Rifle at their On the River Supply store and you’ll come away knowing all you need to know about rafting.

The couple are also excited at the prospects for river recreation to become a bigger part of the local economy, too, if a proposed boat ramp project on the Colorado River near the Rifle rest area comes to fruition.

“That ramp will bring in a whole lot more people to a section of the river that’s not used that much right now,” Mark Proctor said. “Right now, the bridge and the concrete abutment that sticks out into the water, and where the ramp is now, make it a place not really for beginning rafters.”

Along with a new boat ramp further downstream, a public park and trails, better parking and rest room facilities are planned. The idea came from the city’s visitor improvement fund board of directors, and will be funded with the city’s lodging tax dollars plus Great Outdoors Colorado grant money. Backers have proposed leasing property along the Colorado River from the Colorado Department of Transportation for the project.

The estimated cost is $288,000, not including the construction of “vaulted,” or permanent, full-service, rest rooms requested by CDOT.

Mark Proctor said the high runoff in 2011 shoved rocks and debris into the area and shut off river access to the ramp. Sand and gravel needs to be removed, along with the concrete barriers, so rafters don’t find a “whirlpool” affect as they approach the ramp.

“I’m very sure this can bring more revenue into the town,” Mark Proctor said.

Runoff looks positive

The Proctors, like everyone else in the rafting industry, hope the spring snowmelt comes off in stages, with warm temperatures followed by cool nights. That would extend the peak rafting season.

“We prayed all winter long we wouldn’t have a season like 2012,” Kathleen Proctor said of the dry winter and resulting short runoff season, followed by drought and wildfires across Colorado. “Last month, all that snow was like looking at white gold.”

Mark Proctor, a former rafting guide and outfitter, said he expects this year to be a more normal season, after last year’s low year and 2011’s high year.

“I think we should be boating well into the fall,” he said.

Business better than expected

Kathleen Proctor said business has been brisk since they opened the store at 1427 Airport Road in February. The store is in the shopping plaza that formerly housed Stereo Unlimited, until that business shut its doors late last year.

“We’re thinking we already need to expand,” Kathleen Proctor said. “We sold 21 boats, including floor models and even my own personal boat.”

Mark Proctor said he expected to sell around 20 boats all season, but has already had to reorder more boats three times.

Kathleen Proctor recalled a couple drove from Sacramento, Calif., to their store to buy a boat and frame package.

The couple plan a grand opening for their store on Saturday, June 15, with prizes such as one-day Country Jam concert passes. A “boat swap” in front of the store is also planned, similar to ski swaps in the winter, Kathleen Proctor said.

Mark Proctor noted that paddle sports, such as kayaking, rafting and stand up boarding, are among the fastest growing in the U.S.

“We broke down the costs and for what a family of four would spend on average at a Denver Bronco game, we can sell you the equipment to provide rafting fun for 15 or 20 years,” he said.

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