Friday, September 14, 2012

River park plan up for review

Ketchum City Council to consider $2.7M project

Express Staff Writer

    Wood River Valley residents might soon have yet another reason to call in sick and spend the day outside.
    A draft master plan for a proposed river park at Sun Peak—north of Ketchum and immediately southeast of Hulen Meadows subdivision—will be presented to the Ketchum City Council on Monday, Sept. 17, at 5:30 p.m. The plan includes an estimated cost for the project of about $2.7 million.
    After the plan is presented, Ketchum’s Recreation and Public Purposes Task Force is expected to approve a version of it and make an adoption recommendation to the City Council.
    Committee member and Councilwoman Nina Jonas said how construction of the park would be funded is “yet to be decided.”
    “The price tag is high, but that includes all the foreseeable options,” she said.
    Jonas said which options would be included will be determined by discussions among the city, the Wood River Land Trust, which would oversee maintenance of the park’s natural environment, and private donors.
    Director of Parks and Recreation Jennifer Smith said the park will be a good investment for the city.
    “River parks in other cities have generated more than $2 million annually in economic benefits,” Smith said. “In contrast, Durango, Colo., Director of Parks and Recreation Catherine Metz indicates that management costs for Durango’s Animas River Park total about $1,000 annually.”

The city would like to begin construction in 2014.

    Besides turning a profit for the city, Smith said, the park might also help Ketchum’s businesses.
    “The economic benefits are particularly important for Ketchum, as the heaviest use is expected when rivers are at their peak during the spring and early summer shoulder season,” Smith said. “This is a time when tourism revenue to local businesses is at a seasonal low.”
    According to the plan, the park’s main feature would be a whitewater park along approximately 1,500 feet of the Big Wood River. The park would provide a place for novice to expert kayakers—and tubers—to test their skills. Strategically placed features would create a variety of waves.
    Other park features would include trails, river and pond access, habitat restoration, wildlife viewing, dog play areas and a fishing pier. In addition, riverside transfer ramps would be available for people with mobility challenges to easily navigate between their wheelchairs and kayaks.
    Currently, the federally owned land is managed by the BLM, which could soon approve a recreation and public purposes patent—originally applied for in 2008 by Ketchum in partnership with the Wood River Land Trust—that would allow the city to construct the park.
    Earlier this summer, the City Council approved $75,000 in the city’s fiscal 2013 budget to get the project under way and to fund further development of the recreation and public purposes patent application to the BLM.
    Smith said the city hopes to complete the river park as soon as all approvals are obtained from various local, state and federal agencies. The city would like to begin construction in 2014, which would mean the park could open as soon as spring 2015.

Brennan Rego:

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