Avon kayaking launch appears safe
The project has some rafters and kayakers wondering what will happen to what they say has been a convenient place to park and put their boats into the Eagle River.
“Vail Resorts has been cooperative with the outfitting community as far as access,” says Greg Kelchner, owner of Timberline Tours. “I would be surprised if they didn’t want to continue to cooperate.”
The spot in question is an undeveloped patch of land known as the Confluence. It’s on the other side of the river from the Beaver Creek’s East Day Lot lot and bordered by Avon and Benchmark roads.
Kelly Ladyga, a spokeswoman for Vail Resorts, says the company is trying to set aside space for rafters and kayakers, though it doesn’t have a final design for its riverside village.
“While development plans for the confluence have not yet been finalized, we hope the development will be able to accommodate, on at least one side of the river, kayaks and rafts,” Ladyga said.
The $23 million gondola, recently endorsed by the U.S. Forest Service, would carry skiers from Avon up to the Strawberry Park section of Beaver Creek Mountain. Plans call for it to make stops at the Tarnes employee-housing complex and in Bachelor Gulch.
Vail Resorts has not decided when it will start building the gondola, though an early phase of the project – the replacement of Beaver Creek Mountain’s long, slow Westfall Chairlift –is set for this summer. The lift is seen as a key trans-mountain connection for skiers and snowboarders coming off the gondola and heading through Larkspur Bowl toward the main, Centennial area of Beaver Creek.
At the base of the gondola, the ski company is planning a village that could contain restaurants, condominiums and, in potential cooperation with the town of Avon, a transit hub.
The adjacent stretch of river is used mostly during June and July, depending on how high the river is running. The stretch is popular because it’s not as challenging as the Dowd Chutes upstream in Dowd Junction.
Local kayaker Jim Lennon says, in good years, the spot is used for as long as six weeks. During last year’s drought, however, the spot was only usable for about a week, he says.
“It’s been an open area for people use,” Lennon says. “Hopefully Vail will allow a little room for us to play.”
Greg Caretto, owner of Nova Guides, says Vail Resorts has been generous with its riverside property.
“Vail Resorts has always been good about us using that take-out,” Caretto says. “I don’t think they’re interested in cutting the rafting community out of that area. Vail Resorts has been gracious in the past.”
Kelchner says the company could include a riverside park in its village. He says he figures the gondola could be built far enough above the river to make room for rafters and kayakers. Allowing the boaters to continue to use the spot has advantages for everybody, including Avon and Vail Resorts, he says.
“With the ingress and egress, it’s another recreation venue in Avon,” Kelchner says. “The heartbeat of the local community is still recreation.”
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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