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Wave of the future?

Nicole Formosa
Brad Odekirk / Special to the DailyDenverite Tom Conley fishes a section of the Blue River between the I-70 overpass and U.S. Highway 9 near The Outlets at Silverthorne pedestrian bridge crossing the river. Silverthorne town officials are looking into the feasibility of making that section of river a kayak park.
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SILVERTHORNE – Even though plans for a new whitewater park in Silverthorne are in their infancy, the possibility of higher water releases into the Blue River to accommodate the proposed “park and play” wave has local kayak and raft companies grinning at the prospect. “It would be huge,” said Mark Olson, manager of Colorado Kayak Supply. “The venue they could create in Silverthorne could be enormous.”The town of Silverthorne has filed for a “recreational in-channel diversion” with the state water court that would allow 600 cubic feet per second to be released from the Dillon Dam during big holiday weekends – Labor Day, Fourth of July and Memorial Day – and 100 cfs from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. May through September. “Six hundred cfs just brings a smile to my face,” said Christian Campton, owner of Frisco-based Kodi Rafting. “Anytime a river is boatable or you put in a play park, the economic impact that goes to the community is significant.”

Both Campton and Olson said they saw a boost in business last Labor Day when Denver Water timed its release with the holiday weekend.Water for the Lower Blue comes from the Dillon Reservoir, which is owned by Denver Water and supplies water to Front Range residents. Flows into the Lower Blue have been hovering at about 50 cfs.Bill Linfield, director of public works for Silverthorne, says the process of gaining water rights is lengthy and even if the recreational diversion is approved, Silverthorne’s success depends on a cooperative effort with Denver Water.The town of Dillon, Summit County and Denver Water have all filed objections to Silverthorne’s application, but Linfield said the filings are a procedural step for those who want to be involved in the negotiations.Dillon town manager Jack Benson agrees.

“We have water rights in Old Dillon Reservoir and we want the ability to use those water rights when it comes time to do that,” Benson said.When flows are increased out of the dam, it drops the reservoir level, which has the potential to affect other popular Summit County summertime activities, such as sailing.The park is proposed in a stretch of the Blue River that is designated with the highly-touted Gold Medal Status, which is awarded to waters with high densities of big fish.Linfield said the work to prepare for the park – narrowing the channel and using rock structures to create pools – will benefit the fishery.



The town of Breckenridge has had a whitewater park for five years, but it has received little activity, primarily because of low flows in the Upper Blue. Linfield and Olson both feel there’s adequate demand for all three towns to potentially have play parks. “What would happen is people would go to the one that’s best,” Olson said, adding the hole with the best features would likely attract the most paddlers, while beginners would use the other parks.Vail, Colorado


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