Commissioners voice support for funding Rifle boat ramp
Plans to replace the Rifle boat ramp moved a conditional but potentially significant step forward Tuesday with the Garfield County Commissioners informally agreeing to consider awarding grant funding to the project.
Rifle representatives presented to the commissioners Tuesday, providing details for the project, which has been in planning stages for years. The city is seeking $160,077 from the county’s conservation trust fund, which is funded by Colorado Lottery proceeds, to construct a new boat ramp upstream from the current location directly next to the Highway 13 bridge over the Colorado River.
That location is unsafe and has been for some time, said Helen Rogers, chair of the city’s visitor information fund board. Several accidents in the area since the existing ramp was installed in 1996 have resulted in serious injuries and in some instances been fatal, Rogers told the commissioners.
Maneuvering around the Highway 13 bridge pylons adjacent to the ramp pose hazards to those trying to access the ramp, and a concrete weir constructed upstream presents an additional hazard in that stretch of the Colorado.
“Relocating the ramp downstream gives you a better chance to get through that stretch of the river,” Rogers said.
Utilizing the river and making Rifle a “river town” was identified in the city’s 2009 strategic plan.
“We’re hoping we’ll see an increase in the number of boaters using it,” Rifle Planning Manager Nathan Lindquist said of the new boat ramp.
So far the city has raised $67,000, which would be a 30 percent match to the funding asked for from the county.
Development plans, when originally conceived, included pedestrian trails in the area, however, the city separated that into a separate phases with the hope of having the ramp completed in 2016. Several issues, including a planned 2017 change in the Army Corps of Engineers permitting process, have forced the city to try and expedite construction of the boat ramp.
A presentation to Rifle City Council in June 2014 estimated that the total cost for the entire project would be $288,331. Focusing solely on the boat ramp would bring that cost down to $227,077, according to the city’s presentation Tuesday.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky asked Lindquist to bring an additional cost estimate for the trails, stating that he would like to see the county fund the entire project, if possible, in 2016.
Calculating in expenditures this year, including $282,452 for a pedestrian tail in Silt, Kevin Batchelder, acting county manager, informed commissioners that the county expects to end the year with a balance of $188,377 in the conservation trust fund. Projected revenues in 2016 are at $190,000.
“I’d like to see us have this as a project in our 2016 budget,” Jankovsky said.
While the county cannot make a formal commitment until the budget process is completed, Commissioner John Martin agreed to “lean heavily” toward identifying the boat ramp as a 2016 conservation trust fund project. Again, that is subject to financing and funds available, he restated.
If the county awards the funding to the city, construction is expected to start in September 2016, beginning with demolishing the existing boat ramp, which the city would do itself at a cost that has yet to be determined, Lindquist said.
Construction on the new boat ramp would be completed by November of the same year.
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Former Rifle Bears standout turned starting running back for Western Colorado University Ty Leyba remembers it like it was yesterday.