Paddleboard shed gives life to Grand Lake’s lakefront gravel lot

Andrew Wise
Special to the Sky-Hi News
JT Piribek, owner and operator of Rocky Mountain SUP, lifts one of his boards off a rack along the town-owned lakefront on Thursday, June 23.
Andrew Wise / Sky-Hi News |

A level patch of sand on the northwest corner of Grand Lake’s waterfront marks the footprint of a Tuff Shed that will soon be constructed to house office and overnight storage for Rocky Mountain SUP, a stand-up paddleboard rental company on Grand Lake.

For JT Piribek, owner and operator of Rocky Mountain SUP, the structure will be the culmination of months of work, including a contentious public hearing at a Town Board of Trustees meeting in May. The proposal was forwarded to the county for final approval on Tuesday, June 21.

The structure will also represent the first development approved by the newly elected board on a piece of town-owned lake front property that is currently an open gravel lot with two picnic tables and a little-used volleyball court. The lot is used for snow storage in the winter. Evaluations of the lot were completed in 2003 and 2006, as well as a more recent proposal that would have paved the area for use as a parking lot.

Piribek, his wife Tyler and son Bear moved to Grand Lake from Charleston, S.C. last spring and opened Rocky Mountain SUP on July 1, 2015.

“It’s such a cool sport. I’ve done it for almost 10 years now. It’s become more and more of a passion thing just as much as a business thing,” Piribek said.

They leased a small office space above the Blue Water Bakery and stored the boards on several town-owned racks near the location of the proposed structure.

Piribek’s initial plan was to rent the boards directly from a mobile trailer, which he said was the norm in the coastal resort areas near Charleston, but Grand Lake’s code doesn’t allow mobile operations. It requires businesses to have a fixed location in order to operate in town.

For Piribek, the requirement only complicated the process of getting people out on the water.

“[The office] was literally just so we could swipe credit cards and make them sign waivers,” he said. Customers walked from the launch area on the water, back into town, up the stairs to the office in order to pay before making the return trip to go out.

Before the end of last summer, Piribek started looking at establishing a waterfront location in order to simplify the rental process.

“A big factor for it was the convenience for our tourists. That’s what drives the economy in this town,” he said.

After meeting with town officials, Piribek presented his proposal at the May 23 Grand Lake Board of Trustees meeting.

“Everyone had told me, it’s never been done before, it’s going to be tough,’” Piribek said.

The public hearing for Piribek’s project began with the reading of a letter submitted to the board by Kevin Cox, owner of Grand Lake Marina and Boater’s Choice rentals who also rents stand-up paddleboards on Grand Lake.

Cox’s letter expressed concerns with the proposal and asked for the opportunity to bid against Piribek for the space.

Piribek said he understood Cox’s concerns.

“We think we’re different than what they do, they’re a marina, they offer multiple boat options, we’re focusing on creating a paddleboard experience, not just a rental option,” Piribek said.

After further public comment and discussion among board members, Piribek feared the proposal would fail.

“Honestly in my head I was counting up votes and I thought it was going to be 2-4 against us,” he said.

After almost an hour of discussion, the board voted 5-1 to approve the lease of a 100 square foot piece of sand on the east end of the volleyball court, as well as a rack for the paddleboards.

The structure represents the possibility that the board might take further action to improve the lot, and that it at least is more open than past boards to considering private development on town property.

“On the board, and with the new mayor, we have a group of people involved that are looking to take some action,” Piribek said. “I think it’s a very unique opportunity for people to come forth with ideas and bring them up to discussion. Their ears are open, they want to know what they can do.”

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