Durango City Councilors had their chance to weigh in on the new river-access designs at Tuesday’s study session. Opinions varied, but the council ultimately agreed on moving forward with the design process of each site.
Councilors will vote on funding for each project. Final construction documents are expected by the end of this year for Santa Rita Park, Oxbow Park and the access points at 33rd and 29th streets. Improvements will take place as city funding allows.
Mayor Sweetie Marbury voiced concern about Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz’s plan to have volunteers patrol the river.
“I’m not real convinced that a volunteer program that will continue to be successful,” Marbury said. “Sometimes they start out great, and then they fizzle out.”
Preliminary estimates have improvements at Oxbow costing $1.4 million, Santa Rita at $1.3 million, 33rd Street at $900,000 and 29th Street at $700,000.
“All of these are substantial projects,” said Walker Christensen, a senior associate with consulting firm DHM Design.
Councilors had the most questions and discussion about Oxbow Park. The area is divided into two parts: 38 acres of undeveloped land for conservation and habitat protection and up to 6 acres for future river access, extension of the Animas River Trail, park structures and bathrooms. Key elements of the Oxbow concept include clear, organized river access while preserving natural vegetation, shoreline picnicking and wading and restrooms.
Marbury worried about Oxbow’s cost and that some of the improvements would be in an area known to flood. Christensen recommended the use of previous pavers, which can hold up in water.
“You have $1.4 million as a price tag for that,” Marbury said. “That’s a lot of money for me.”
Some of the councilors said they wanted Oxbow to be a walk-in only option, but Frank Viehmann, vice chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said the current design allows for both.
“You would limiting people by their physical abilities. ... ” he said. “Fewer people would come and use this (park), not because of the river experience or because of other things associated with the experience, but it would just be too darn hard to haul their kayak (for) certain people from the top all the way down and put it in.”
A summary of design elements includes creating a more park-like setting at Santa Rita Park, improving circulation for vehicles with trailers and buses and expanding the parking lot for the 29th Street access. Enhancing staging areas, including on-river staging away from ramps, is planned for the 33rd Street put-in.