Eagle board approves $41,000 contract for river park planning
EAGLE — In anticipation of an April election seeking voter approval for a sales tax increase to fund development of a river park at the current truck parking area near the Eagle County Fairgrounds entrance, the Eagle Town Board has approved a $41,000 contract with a Lyons firm called S2o to master plan the amenity.
“This has unparalleled potential to be a whitewater park,” said Scott Shipley, the S2o representative who will be overseeing the project. Shipley has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and has designed and overseen the construction of many projects, including the San Marcos Whitewater Park and the Durango Whitewater Park.
Shipley noted that the best whitewater parks are more than just in-stream recreation amenities. He said the best whitewater parks are actually community parks. “They are much more than just the water,” said Shipley. “There is so much potential in that one spot.”
The design work is slated to being in early 2015. According to the firm’s proposal “S2o will work with the town to develop a project goals and objectives plan to guide the design process. This plan will be based on details obtained from site visits, coordination with town and county staff, regulatory agency consultation, along with a review of existing planning documents, site hydrology, site studies, site development history, land ownership, flood impacts, survey details, channel morphology, wildlife habitat, utilities, storm sewers and other relevant information.”
Earlier this year, the Trust for Public Land conducted a survey commissioned by the town to gauge support for either a sales tax increase or a property tax increase to 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.
The concept 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 concept calls for pedestrian bridge construction to link the area to downtown Eagle. 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.
The survey conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates in August showed Eagle residents indicated strong support for a sales tax increase to fund river park improvements. The survey included 185 responses and 68 percent of the people polled said they were “very willing” or “somewhat willing” to pay $4 extra per month for the project. Translated into sales tax, that would be an approximately 0.4 percent increase to Eagle’s current total sales tax level of 8.4 percent. That increase would generate approximately $300,000 annually and would allow the town to issue approximately $3 million in revenue bonds.
As they considered the S2o contract, the town board learned that Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney had already begun the work of involving other entities in the project planning.
“Oftentimes, we become an adversary. It was nice to be brought in at the beginning of this planning,” said Craig Wescoatt, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“If ever there was a spot to do a water park on the Eagle River, this is it,” said Ray Merry, director of Eagle County Environmental Health. “Hopefully, this project will result in something better than what we have today.”
Town Board Election
But before construction can start, Eagle voters will have to approve financing for the plan. If the board proceeds with the sales tax question at the April election, then it will appear on the same ballot as the town board election, which has become more controversial over the past two weeks since the board voted unanimously to suspend Stavney.
Five of the seven town board seats, including the mayor seat, will be up for election. The large turnover is resulting from the resignations of three previously elected board members. State law says members appointed to board seats must seek re-election at the next municipal vote if they intend to continue to serve.