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Boards settle on Oxbow management plan revisions

By Sarah Ford
Herald Staff Writer

The Oxbow Park and Preserve Management Plan passed the final stage of revisions Wednesday night before being submitted for review and possible adoption by City Council in the coming weeks.

In a joint meeting of the Parks & Recreation Board and the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board, several revisions were made to the plan, including closing the preserve from later this month until June 30, 2014, and establishing park hours from 5 a.m. to midnight.

“What we were trying to do tonight is have a public process, and we did that well,” Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said. “I think we’ve come up with a good plan.”

With the revisions, the plan now will undergo a review “study session” by City Council together with the boards to determine any final alterations before being adopted by City Council sometime early next year.

The closing of the preserve area, however, will take effect within this month, Metz said. The intended purpose of the closure is to gather information and research on how possible future seasonal closures in the area should be handled.

“The boards will endeavor to collect best-management practices and site-specific data conducted by volunteer groups,” the amended plan will read.

Hours of access within the park and on the river also were altered to 5 a.m. to midnight to be consistent with other public parks. The original draft restricted river access from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

During the public comments section, community members recommended alterations to the plan ranging from increasing patrols and rules enforcement by officials in the area to restricting hours of access within the park.

Durango resident Tim LaFrance proposed including on-river enforcement during peak times of use and periodic random cooler inspections during peak times of river access.

LaFrance said his proposals had been agreed to by several commercial rafting groups, including 4Corners Riversports, Mild to Wild Rafting, Surf the San Juans and Camp Kivu.

“That’s what’s important about tonight – that you have people of diverse interests coming together saying we need more on-river enforcement and peak cooler inspections,” LaFrance said.

However, LaFrance said he felt the concerns of residents who attended the meeting had not been heard by the committee.

Though discussion now will move forward to City Council review, Metz said she encouraged and expected the public to continue with comments and proposed revisions through letters and through reaching out to City Council members.

Other revisions to the final Oxbow Park and Preserve Management Plan included removing the designation of “nature paddling trail” and calling for a proactive management plan on the area with input from community members. The altered plan will be updated on the city’s website in the coming days.

Sarah Ford is a junior majoring in journalism at the University of Denver. herald@durangoherald.com.

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