Major stopper – for now …
Although Larimer County representatives have expressed enthusiasm for the idea of building a kayak park, they do not see a way forward at this time – they have put the proposal in the “too hard” basket.
The main reasons given are – the County is broke (staff time and money), the Colorado Division of Wildlife has not supported the idea, one adjacent landowner is not enthusiastic, there is concern about the possible impact of the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP; including Glade Reservoir), and they seem to believe that getting FEMA approval would be very expensive (they estimate $150,000).
I don’t believe any of these issues need to be stoppers. With a “can do” mindset, we could generate solutions to each of them that would be acceptable to all parties involved.
Here is more information:
- The Colorado Division of Wildlife (a majority landowner of Lions Park) does not support the proposal to build a whitewater park and enhance the fish habitat. They are proffering the opinion that:
- To build or support kayakable whitewater features would be inconsistent with their mission to support the fishing folks and hunters (whose license fees fund the CDOW). They assert: “more kayakers = fewer fishermen and women and reduced quality of fishing experience.” I don’t believe that everyone at the CDOW holds this view, but enough do at the moment to oppose out proposal.
- In this particular instance, where they actually own the land, (which was purchased in support of their mission with money earmarked for that) it seems particularly inappropriate.
- They have not yet embraced the reality that kayakers and fishing folks really want very similar things in terms of river flows and should be combining forces to protect rivers for kayaking AND fishing – i.e., what is good for kayakers is good for fish.
- If it was to be built on land that DID NOT belong to the CDOW, they would still:
- Need to see a design that was genuinely fish friendly (we should all care about this)
- Be concerned about who was responsible to maintain it in the long term.
The CDOW fish biologist with whom I spoke acknowledges that this section of the Poudre River (at Lions Park) is degraded from a fish habitat perspective and could benefit from some improvements. Colorado State University professor, Boris Kondratieff, said that the best thing that could be done for the invertebrates and fish would be to move away from the “toilet flush hydrologic regime” back to a more natural regime with more persistent flows and proper peaks… i.e. stop turning the river on and off, especially in the fall. More consistently connected pools would be good for both fish food species and fish.
I have been told that the CDOW would like the County to purchase this land from them, but of course the County does not currently have the resources to try to make that happen (either staff time or funds). We might be able to help them with this.
- The Colorado Division of Wildlife does not own all of the land comprising Lions Park, the area downstream from the middle of the parking lot to the bridge is owned by two private landowners (both of whom have written letters of support for a whitewater play park) and the City of Fort Collins. The Larimer County Open Space Program leases the land from the CDOW (for a nominal fee) and manages it as a trailhead for Pleasant Valley Trail and the Poudre River Trail, which connect at the Park. I’ve heard that this lease is due for review in 2016, and so is the current management plan.
- Although the Larimer County Open Space Advisory Board did, somewhat halfheartedly, agree to review their management plan for the park earlier than scheduled to consider adding kayaking to the plan, I understand they are now backing away from this commitment.
- Greely is constructing a pipeline with which they intend to divert a large volume of water (through a pipe paralleling the river) from the Canyon mouth to Greeley. They have not completed construction of this pipe and, I understand, have not yet received permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to connect the pipeline to the river at their treatment plant at the Canyon mouth. They should not be allowed to do this. They should be required to minimize their impact on the river by extracting their deeded water at Greeley and treating it there, thereby allowing this significant volume of water to do all sorts of good things (like lubricate a kayak park) on its natural course to Greeley.
- NISP keeps rearing its ugly head as an obstacle to a kayak park, in Fort Collins, and now in LaPorte. There are considerable differences in opinions about the projected impacts of NISP, should it be approved and constructed.
Some people are of the opinion that peak flows would be considerably diminished (to the detriment of the river) and that the June rise would be shortened by up to 6 weeks by extraction of uncommitted ‘free’ flows. Even with this scenario, I believe we could design and build a whitewater park that was worth the effort. A more optimistic view is that the reduction in peak flows would be less ‘noticeable’ and that the duration of the June rise would not be reduced, and that a deal might be struck for higher base flows for the remainder of the year. A representative of NISP even suggested that they might be able to “help us build a kayak park” by channeling some of their “mitigation efforts” to that stretch of river. Go figure.
What can we do?
- Try not to get too disheartened.
- Form a recognizable group whose mission is to get whitewater play features on the Poudre River. At almost every meeting with public agencies, I am asked if there is a group spearheading this action – I try to explain that, with the exception of the Poudre Paddlers and the Colorado WhiteWater Association, kayakers are relatively solitary folks who paddle with a few friends at a time. I think this weakens our case. I think it would be of value to form a group dedicated to whitewater recreation on the Poudre River (its voice might be strengthened if it had members who were not only kayakers, but also canoeists, fishermen and women, etc. It might be called something like Poudre River Players – ideas welcome!!) And I will be out of the country for a block of time, so I will be out of action for a while.
- Figure out a way to help the CDOW transfer the Lions Park land ownership to Larimer County if both parties are willing.
- Use modeling to present a credible flow regime if NISP is constructed and the Greeley pipeline becomes a functioning reality.
- I think it would be of great value if we could formulate a design. It is very easy for people to reject an idea when we are talking in generalities. The County representative I spoke with was concerned that something designed for the current flow regime might not work in the presence of NISP – I was trying to explain that features designed for the current range of 0-4000 cfs or so would likely be optimized for lowish flows anyway. If we could get suitably skilled volunteers to survey the site, model the flows and generate an approximate design, this would help us all negotiate on the same page.
Sorry I don’t have better news.