For the first time since Lake Nighthorse began filling close to two years ago, a picture of what recreation will look like at the reservoir began to emerge after two days of workshops and meetings.
In a couple of months, planners at Durango-based DHM Design will return a completed picture for review by the public and water authorities. Final approval will take a few more months.
Heres a rough sketch of the plan:
b The lake will have places for water craft ranging from power boats to canoes and kayaks. Only Jet Skis would be banned.
b A beach will be available for swimmers, and other areas will be designated for nonboating activities.
b Trails will accommodate hikers, cyclists and equestrians.
b A boat ramp, already installed on the northeast shore, will provide access for boaters and anglers.
b Campgrounds will be phased in, but definite sites have not been chosen.
b The entrance to the recreation area from County Road 210 will have a ticket booth and a station to check water craft for invasive species, particularly quagga mussels and zebra mussels.
Visitors arriving on foot or bicycle will not pay an admission fee. Motorists will be charged, and additional charges will be levied for launching a boat or camping.
Six planning committees formed for the workshops had to work around certain givens.
The south and west shores of the lake will be off-limits to the public from Nov. 15 to May 15 in order to provide habitat for wildlife. Park users will have to steer clear of golden eagle nesting sites near the dam.
The draft master plan is slated to be finished this spring.
Colorado State Parks, the agency that typically manages lake recreation, bowed out of involvement at Lake Nighthorse because it didnt have money for the project.
The lake, located in a basin southwest of Bodo Industrial Park, is being created with water pumped from the Animas River. It will have a capacity of 120,000 acre-feet and is expected to be full in 2012. The lake is part of the Animas-La Plata Project to supply water to three Native American tribes and nontribal entities.
At the wrap-up session Wednesday evening, Joy Lujan, a National Park Service planner on loan to coordinate public participation in the project, said its important to open the area to the public even with minimal facilities.
Ann Christensen, a principal in DHM Design, agreed.
Its important to get people into the lake quickly without huge expense, Christensen said.
The lake is off-limits until a master plan is approved and someone to manage recreation is hired, she said.
Lujan was pleased with the work of the six work groups, which required hard bargaining among interests that were miles apart when discussions about the master plan began in November.
The most contentious issue was what water craft would be allowed on the lake and the noise they would create. In the end, various interests compromised, but hard feelings were evident at the final session.
Members of the finance and management committee cautioned against extreme optimism. Revenue sources arent assured, so activities cant exceed the ability to pay for them.
Potential sources of revenue are Great Outdoors Colorado, donations, federal and state legislatures, in-kind contributions and grants.
Management of the recreation area isnt determined. Possibilities mentioned Wednesday were a new authority (a public agency with administrative power), a special district, and modification of Animas-La Plata Project guidelines to allow it to fund recreation.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the land and dam, must approve the plan.