MONTROSE – Well over 100 citizens of Montrose and surrounding areas participated Monday in a workshop to discuss the Uncompahgre River Corridor Master Plan.
The interactive session held at the Montrose Pavilion was led by project designers DHM Design of Durango with real-time key-pad polling of the audience by RPI Consulting, also of Durango.
The City of Montrose, with grant money from Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and the Department of Local Affairs, has commissioned the plan to look at 10 miles of river as it runs through the city from Taviwach Park on the north to the Ute Museum on the south.
Monday’s meeting was the first to assess community views on parks and trails, open space, agriculture, wildlife habitat, river restoration, commercial development, educational and cultural resources, and fishing and boating – including the possibility of a whitewater park. DHM will present a draft plan sometime in the fall at which point there will be more public input.
Thirty percent of the land within the corridor is public property, according to Ann Christenson of DHM, who made the initial presentation. “The plan is not recommending taking any private properties,” she emphasized, although there may be areas identified as desirable for possible future public acquisition.
In doing its own pre-draft research, Christenson said the firm found considerable support for developing the recreational possibilities at two northside parks recently acquired by the city, Taviwach Park opposite the airport, and the site at North Ninth and Grand Avenue just west of the Montrose County Justice Center.
She said there is demand for more trails, especially connecting to downtown, more access to the river and more bridges across the river. She stressed the importance of river ecology and wildlife habitat within the corridor. “Riparian lands make up only three percent of the land area in the West, but they are used by 80 percent of all the species in a given area. Think of it as an oasis in our arid climate,” she said.
The economic benefits of a master-planned river corridor are clear as well, Christenson said. “It’s an amenity that lifts all property values. Identifying compatible businesses along the river, like restaurants and retail businesses, building riverways and bikeways, is mutually beneficial to property owners and the river. It becomes a marketing feature. It attracts businesses to an area.”
In the key-pad voting portion of the meeting, Gabe Preston of RPI Consulting projected multiple-choice questions on the screen. “This isn’t really voting,” he said. “It’s more like polling. We’re looking for places where we have broad agreement, or broad disagreement.”
Question number one asked which mode of transportation citizens preferred. Biking was the clear winner over cars, trucks, walking, SUVs, horses, skateboards, or scooters. Eighty-three percent of respondents said they use the river corridor in some way. Eighty percent said they support the idea of more parks and open space.
Participants were asked if they favored commercial development within the corridor provided it is compatible with the master plan, and a solid majority agreed. One person in the audience pointed out, however, that “There’s a big difference between boardwalks and patio restaurants and the back side of a Target overlooking the river.”
The final question (of about 20) asked voters to rank their top two areas of interest relative to the river corridor. Parks and trails, and open space and wildlife habitat polled the strongest.
Anyone with comments or questions is encouraged to contact Ann Christenson of DHM Design (970/385-4219), Gabe Preston of RPI Consulting (970/382-9886), or Montrose Parks Planner Dennis Erickson (970/240-1481).