KAJX

Basalt whitewater park: simple or gathering place?

Jan 21, 2016

River engineer Jason Carey stands in front of where a whitewater park is slated for the Roaring Fork River in Basalt.
Credit Elise Thatcher

There’s a whitewater park in the works near Basalt, and the key is now figuring out how many amenities it should have.

Jason Carey stands next to the Roaring Fork River, between Two Rivers Road and Highway 82,  upstream of the confluence with the Frying Pan River. Carey is a river engineer, and says we’re near a really good place to put a whitewater park because water runs swiftly, and “in this location where they dumped all the riprap...part of what that did was make the river work differently to create these longer pools. So that also supports the recreational experience.”

Riprap means large rocks, to help stabilize the area. “The river took out Two Rivers Road in the big floods in 1995,” he explains. “[It] wiped out a big section of the road. It was repaired in emergency fashion, i. e. while it was flooding they just dumped boulders and rocks into the river to try and rebuild the river bank and the road.”

The bank is now unstable.... putting in a whitewater park would also mean rebuilding it, ensuring the road is safe.

But the real reason for the park proposal is to make it possible for Pitkin County to make sure there’s enough water in the river, period. The Roaring Fork can get pretty low when it’s dry and people with more senior water rights are using a lot of water. With a whitewater park, a recreation opportunity, Pitkin County can legally request a certain amount of water stay in the river. So the county’s Healthy Rivers Board is working with Carey and others to design a fun place to play in the Roaring Fork.

“Really what we’re looking for now is the community’s input on streamside improvements and amenities,” says Pitkin County Paralegal Lisa MacDonald. She’s the staff liaison for the Healthy Rivers Board, and says they want to make sure they know whether locals want “a simple restorative place, or a community event type space… We have to start somewhere. Do we go all out or do we just keep it simple and quiet.”

Pitkin County is accepting comments on the matter until the end of today. MacDonald says they’d prefer to receive them sooner rather than later, but if comments arrive next week, they’ll still be considered. Pitkin County is lining up other governments to help pay for the park. Construction is expected to being late this summer.