The grant, written by City Park Planner and Project Manager Dennis Erickson, will be used to develop “the first-ever Montrose Comprehensive Uncompahgre Riverway Master Plan,” according to the city’s website.
With a plan in place, the city will have “a valuable tool for directing its long-term efforts toward maintaining the beauty of the Uncompahgre River for generations to come.”
But there’s more than beauty to be preserved, Erickson said, and the plan could look at possible development of water sports like kayaking.
“It will be multi-objective with numerous interests and stakeholders taking part,” he said. “We want different perspectives on what should happen with the river.”
The Montrose City Council must first adopt a resolution to sign the GOCO grant, which Erickson said he hopes will happen at the Jan. 7 meeting.
The next step is to send out requests for proposals to professional consulting firms, who will do the work of preparing the plan.
“I hope we can find someone on the Western Slope that’s been involved with river master plans in the past,” Erickson said.
Once a consultant is hired, site analysis and data collection will begin in earnest on the river. Erickson said he hopes that stakeholder meetings can begin in late spring and that public meetings will continue through September.
“I’m hoping by the end of the year to have a plan in place,” he said. “We definitely want to seek all the input and public options and we want to make sure all have an opportunity to comment.”
Development along the river gained public attention a few years ago when hundreds of native species trees were cleared to make way for shopping centers on the south side of town.
Public outcry led to the formation of a grassroots group, Friends of the River Uncompahgre, and eventually to a city-sanctioned Montrose River Corridor Work Group, which proposed buffer ordinances to protect the river until a river master plan can be completed.
Plans for protecting the river actually began years before, Erickson said.
“The city did a greenway feasibility study back in 2000 that recommended we proceed with a master plan,” he said. “But it came to the forefront when those native tree species were brought down.”
At the time that about 300 cottonwood and willow trees were cut down, the land was in the county, Erickson said, and no rules were broken.
He said he doesn’t know if a master plan and new regulations by themselves can stop trees from being cut down in the future.
“The city will come up with new codes, but we may offer other incentives to help protect those areas from development,” he said. “It’s all a matter of public input in the public planning process. Hopefully the whole thing will give us the tools to protect the river, even providing recreation along with it, and protecting open space.”
Protecting the river might also mean that the city buys certain parcels, Erickson said, along with three or four parcels it already has.
The city is also interested in working with private property owners on uses for the river, he said.
“A lot of people are interested in creating fish habitat improvement and kayak play areas,” he said.