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River-access improvement designs OK’d

Oxbow plan aims to balance Animas access with vegetation preservation
Ann Christensen, with DHM Design, discusses plans for future river access May 1 during a community meeting at Oxbow Preserve, along Animas View Drive. The Durango Parks & Recreation Advisory Board has backed the drive-in option for river access with members agreeing it easily could be made into a walk-in access site.

Durango’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Board has approved designs for four Animas River access sites, setting in motion plans to improve heavily used areas.

Wednesday night, board members unanimously agreed on the preferred design options for put-ins at 29th Street, 33rd Street and Oxbow Preserve, which is along Animas View Drive. The board approved the Santa Rita Park concept with the condition that consultants thoroughly review parking options.

The Durango City Council will review the designs for each site sometime in July. Councilors do not need to vote on the plans, but they will have to vote on funding for each project. Final construction documents are expected by the end of this year. Improvements will take place as city funding allows. A summary of design elements includes:

Creating a more park-like setting at Santa Rita Park. Also, plans call for improving the surface of the river access, creating a beach picnic area that’s separate from the put-in and take-out area and making parking and traffic flow more efficiently. The projected cost is $1.25 million.

Improving circulation for vehicles with trailers and buses and expanding the parking lot for the 29th Street access. Plans also call for building new restrooms and changing rooms. Construction costs are estimated at $700,000.

Enhancing staging areas, including on-river staging away from ramps, is planned for the 33rd Street put-in. Other elements include improving traffic flow and circulation for cars with trailers and better pedestrian access. Expected cost is $860,000.

Consultants will take the preferred concepts that were approved and fine-tune them while exploring issues or ideas brought up at the board meeting, such as adding or changing design elements, considering river high and low flows, environmental impacts and habitat protection. They’ll also analyze ease of construction.

Walker Christensen, a senior associate with consulting firm DHM Design, said at the meeting there were two options for Oxbow Park and Preserve: a drive-in option and a walk-in option.

“This one we have really strong opinions on both sides and strong support for both options in different ways,” Christensen said. “The boating community had the expectation over the past few years in the public process that this would be a drive-in put-in, and the neighbors have a strong opinion that they want to preserve the native vegetation, have more of a walk-in put-in.”

Key elements of the Oxbow concept include clear, organized river access while preserving natural vegetation, shoreline picnicking and wading, and restrooms and changing rooms. Oxbow currently lacks amenities. Cost is projected to be $1.5 million.

At the meeting, public comment centered entirely on Oxbow. The area is divided into two parts: 38 acres of undeveloped land for conservation and habitat protection and 6 acres for future river access, extension of the Animas River Trail, park structures and bathrooms. The preserve currently is closed through June while environmental studies are underway, but residents said people have been trespassing at the preserve off Animas View Drive, and they let their dogs run loose. Oxbow may not be developed until the Animas River Trail is finished around 2017.

“Daily, we’ve got people ... parking sort of on the street because you can’t really get off the street, and ... when you ask them if they could please stop blocking traffic, they say ‘I’m not parking, I’m unloading,’” said resident Susan Ulery. “It’s really an untenable situation.”

Board members also were concerned that the staging area at Oxbow is on land currently under water.

The parks board backed the drive-in option, agreeing that it could easily be made into a walk-in access site.

Most of the board’s discussion about Santa Rita Park’s design focused on parking. Board member Richard Speegle said more trailer parking should be at the site. Board member Peter Schertz strongly disagreed.

“I have serious concerns about (the amount of parking),” Schertz said. “This is much more than a ‘tweak’ in my mind.”

smueller@durangoherald.com

Animas River conceptual designs (PDF)



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