County embraces Eagle’s riverfront park plan
September 3, 2015
EAGLE — Earlier this year, the Eagle County commissioners agreed to let the town of Eagle develop a plan for the truck parking area just west of Chambers Park.
This week, the town presented its preliminary plans for the site, and the commissioners liked what they saw.
The town is working toward a sales tax increase election in April to partially fund an ambitious $12 million river park plan that would stretch from Chambers Park to the western edge of the truck parking area owned by Eagle County.
“Right now, this area is not the most likely area you would visit in Eagle. I feel absolutely, without any reservation in my mind, you have the best option here for not necessarily a whitewater park but for a river corridor park.”Ken HoeveGypsum
The overall plan includes trails, grassy areas, bathrooms and a promenade with utility hookups for food trucks, roadside vendors and special event overnight use. The in-stream plans include wave features, eddies, beaches and accommodations for rafts and tubes. Additionally, the plan calls for pedestrian bridge construction to link the area to downtown Eagle.
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The town envisions phasing the project and attracting funding partners such as Eagle County and Greater Outdoors Colorado. The most likely initial phase would include transforming the truck parking into a riverside park with the in-stream features. That part of the plan would cost an estimated $7 million.
Because the county owns the property where the park is proposed, earlier this summer town officials proposed an intergovernmental agreement that would allow Eagle to develop a master plan for the area. The county agreed to the IGA, but the notion of a riverfront park actually dates back to January 2014.
Nearly two years ago, the town participated in a planning effort coordinated by the Sonoran Institute and one of the themes that emerged from that effort was a focus on making the Eagle River corridor a focal point for the community. Since then, the Eagle Town Board had identified a riverfront park as a top priority.
In a presentation to the county this week, Eagle Planner Matt Farrar said the town wants to create a "wow factor" from Interstate 70 in place of the dirt parking area, dumpsters and chain link fence that currently characterize the property. Eagle Town Board member Anne McKibbin said the plan was to change a gloomy eyesore into a beautiful park.
"We think we can do some great things, with you guys, on this property," McKibbin said.
What about the trucks?
While the commissioners reacted favorably to the idea of sprucing up the area and providing river access, they noted there will still be a need for truck parking, contestant parking during the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo and overflow parking for special events at the county fairgrounds.
Eagle representatives responded that the plan does not eliminate parking, neither for cars nor trucks. The proposal allows for a large parking lot near Fairgrounds Road and organizes the space more clearly than current conditions.
"We are really providing a higher, better experience for the people using it," said Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney.
Stavney said the plan will accommodate up to 40 trucks at the site and noted the need will likely be in the winter, when Interstate 70 is closed due to weather, rather than during the summer when the riverfront park will see heavy use.
"We like the idea of having a place for trucks to go," he said.
Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry asked if the in-stream features planned as part of the park development will be dependent on certain water levels. Farrar noted the plan isn't designed just for kayakers, but rather anticipates a variety of uses including rafts, tubes and even wading.
The commissioners also noted there is private property that lies between the river and downtown Eagle, asking how that land figures in the overall plan. Eventually, Stavney said, the town would like to see development on those parcels and pedestrian access to the river.
"That ground is seen as a great place for growth to occur," he said.
"It's absolutely transformative," said commissioner Jill Ryan in response to the proposal. "Aren't you worried about waiting until April?"
The commissioners noted they had seen survey responses to the proposal indicating 68 percent approval for the sales tax plan.
"The polling results were remarkable," said Chandler-Henry. "It's pretty exciting."
At least one area resident chimed in with his support for the plan. Ken Hoeve, of Gypsum, said a new riverfront park would lure people off of I-70 and into town.
"Right now, this area is not the most likely area you would visit in Eagle," said Hoeve in a recorded message. "I feel absolutely, without any reservation in my mind, you have the best option here for not necessarily a whitewater park but for a river corridor park."