Recreation projects at lake get $285K boost

Nighthorse off-limits to public until manager working, master plan completed

Local residents eager to dive into Lake Nighthorse will be happy to learn recreation plans at the reservoir got a big boost Monday.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced Tuesday that the city will get $285,000 for development of recreation at the recently filled reservoir.

That’s the lion’s share of $300,000 in federal pass-through funding from the excise tax on motorboat fuel that was available to dole out, agency spokesman Randy Hampton said.

“Our committee that makes grant recommendations had Durango as the number one priority,” Hampton said.

The grant is earmarked to pay part of several Lake Nighthorse projects: a station to inspect boats for invasive mussels, a dock and buoys, access-road design and the overall recreation master plan.

The city of Durango has taken on the development of recreation at Lake Nighthorse from the Animas La Plata Water Conservancy District – itself a surrogate for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which said it has more pressing demands.

“The city has not signed an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation (which owns the lake) to oversee recreation,” Kevin Hall, director of natural lands, trails and sustainability, said Tuesday. “But we’re doing it on an at least interim basis.”

If Colorado Parks and Wildlife eventually changes its priorities, the city wants facilities developed to state standards, Hall said.

Lake Nighthorse, located in Ridges Basin about 2 miles southwest of Durango, holds 123,541 acre-feet of water.

It’s a component of the Animas-La Plata Project to provide potable water for three Native American tribes and nontribal partners in Colorado and New Mexico.

The 1,500 surface acres of Lake Nighthorse invite recreation, but the reservoir is off-limits to the public until the master plan is complete and a manager is on the job.

Board members of the Animas La-Plata Water Conservancy District put up $25,000 in 2009 to initiate work on the master plan. It added more money later and received $25,000 each from the Southwestern Water Conservation District and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Earlier money from the federal tax on motorboat fuel funded the construction of a yet-unused boat ramp.

The remainder of the Parks and Wildlife $300,000 pot was awarded for projects at Ruedi Reservoir near Basalt and Standley Lake near Denver, Hampton said.

daler@durangoherald.com

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