County Endorses Whitewater Park Grant Application
by Kati O'Hare
Aug 02, 2012 | 1790 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

MONTROSE – The City of Montrose's efforts for a whitewater park took a positive step forward Tuesday after Montrose County Commissioners gave their endorsement on moving ahead with a grant application, and said they would discuss monetary contributions to the project at their next meeting.

City Councilors and the Montrose Recreation District board asked county commissioners to the table on July 31 to discuss if the county was willing – and at what cost – to support a project that would include creating a whitewater park along the Uncompaghre River at Riverbottom Park.

The city teamed up with MRD hoping to submit a Great Outdoors Colorado grant application by Aug. 29 that could provide $350,000 toward the project, which includes improvements to the MRD's ball fields and surrounding areas, also in Riverbottom Park.

"In principal, it's all about improving the community for all of us," said Kerwin Jensen, City of Montrose community development director.

After a two-hour meeting, commissioners David White and Gary Ellis – who did most of the talking for the county – agreed to put the request for funding help on their regular commissioner meeting agenda for Monday, Aug. 6.

"I don't think not helping is an option," Ellis said during the meeting.

The city staff stressed the economic benefits the county could see from having a whitewater park in Montrose, which included increased tourism and new businesses to cater to those visitors, as well as the recreational opportunity it would provide county residents.

"Economic development is number one in our strategic plan, and things like this contribute to that," Commissioner David White said.

The city asked that commissioners consider a $50,000 contribution to the project, and even a possible $100,000, though commissioners only discussed the lower figure at the meeting. They also discussed possible in-kind services the county could provide during the construction period.

Mayor Thomas Smits pushed commissioners to approve the funding regardless of the grant application's outcome so that the money, combined with the city’s $50,000 contribution from its general fund, could be used for the engineering cost of the whitewater park – a component of the project that is a more immediate necessity and could strengthen a future GOCO application if the upcoming submission is not approved.

Ellis said he believes the county can defend its actions to support this effort, which is clearly a demonstration of governmental entities working together.

In return for the county's support, both the city and MRD said they would be supportive – the city in a monetary way that would match the county's possible support – in the county's future efforts to obtain such grants for projects such as the county fairgrounds.

"I think what we've started to realize is that we benefit each other," Smits said.

The city presented four options that included different funding and project scopes.

The first two options would create a whitewater park that was not quite up to the recommendations that professional kayaker and park designer Scott Shipley, who helped design the London Olympic whitewater course, recommended when he visited Montrose last year, yet would still meet the desires of the community and stay within its budgetary means.

The proposed plans would be for a "play park," which has several drops in the river that can be enjoyed individually and don't have to be run in a series to get the full effect, similar to play parks in Durango and Golden. A play park, unlike a whitewater course, is conducive to all skill levels. Taking out a few of the drops – because of budget limitations – would not change a user's whitewater park experience.

The city also is looking to make the park Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, certified – a feature that would set Montrose's park apart from most others, said Jared Bolhuis, a retired Marine and kayak instructor who recently moved to Montrose to help run its Welcome Home Montrose disabled veterans program.

"Adaptive whitewater is a whole new frontier that has only started," he said during the meeting.

Bolhuis again stressed the economic impact such a park would have on the community, saying that Montrose could feature adaptive whitewater in the warmer months, while Telluride promoted its adaptive sports in the winter.

While commissioners discuss their involvement in the project, the city will continue to draft its application and the future potential of a whitewater park in Montrose.

City councilors are expected to discuss the matter further at their regular Aug. 7 meeting.

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