Eagle nixes idea to move river park, wecomes private donations for project
EAGLE — Eagle Town Board members responded with a solid rejection to a citizen’s suggestion that they should rethink the location of the Eagle River Park.
After first floating and then defending a suggestion in a lengthy Facebook thread, Tom Johnson appeared before the board Tuesday to assert that the park development could be moved to the Brush Creek-Eagle River confluence area. Johnson said the move would resolve private land ownership issues, integrate with the county’s master plan for the area and still maintain the vertical drop conditions needed for in-stream features.
Eagle Mayor Anne McKibbin responded that the town was several years and thousands of dollars beyond the point where it could reconsider the park location.
“We are way past these decision-making actions,” she said.
The Eagle River Park project is a 4.3-acre park including two main components: the in-stream design and construction of a new whitewater park, and the upland park parcel on the north side of the Colorado River. The Eagle River Park project borders the Eagle River near the Eagle County Fairgrounds and Chambers Park. The $8 million river park is part of the Eagle River Corridor Plan established in 2015 and has been funded by a portion of the 0.5 percent sales tax approved through a ballot measure in 2016. The project is being designed and constructed in two primary phases, the whitewater park and the upland park.
Johnson argued that the ballot question that approved the sales tax to fund the park development did not specify the fairgrounds location. He said the town has had years to consider development along the river corridor and asserted officials made the wrong move when they elected to develop the whitewater park at the fairgrounds parcel.
Johnson also chastised the board for proceeding with plans that included the private property belonging to Phyllis Johnson, of Eagle, and Harlan House, of Kansas.
McKibbin responded that the town has since removed the private property from the park plan and is proceeding with the project. She noted the design team is working on an alternative that will locate a pedestrian path away from the private land.
After asserting that the project was past the point of relocation, town board members received a report from the park construction manager noting that the design for the in-stream features are at the 95 percent completion point.
Colleen Kanada, the town’s river park construction manager, also fielded a question from town board member Scott Turnipseed regarding the construction schedule for both the in-stream work and the upland park. The in-stream section is slated for construction during the winter of 2017-18 and the upland park work is scheduled to begin next spring.
“It seems a little ambitious to start the upland park construction in March and finish it by July,” Turnipseed said.
“It is doable,” Kanada said. “It is ambitious, I agree.”
The schedule isn’t the only ambitious effort under way for the park. The project’s fundraising committee has set a goal to raise $1 million.
Town board member Matt Solomon, who also serves on the citizen committee for the river park, reported that the fundraising effort has filed the necessary paperwork for nonprofit status. With that work done, the project is ready to accept private donations.
Solomon noted there will be various naming rights options at the park, but the facility itself won’t be one of them. The Eagle River Park will be the site name, but private donors can have their names attached to various features within the park.
Town board members noted they would like donation levels to begin at a more modest level — $500 for engraved pavers, as an example. From there, the donation options will be offered at a variety of levels extending to as high as $500,000 for the park pavilion naming rights.
Solomon said the private fundraising is an important part of the overall project because it will support the town’s application for grant dollars and decrease the project’s reliance on sales tax support.