Surf’s up: Gore Canyon Whitewater Park ‘open for non-business’
Special to the Sky-Hi News
Stakeholders from Grand County, Eagle County and the Bureau of Land Management met on Wednesday, May 13, with staff from Kissner General Contractors and RiverRestoration for a post-construction inspection of the newly completed Gore Canyon Recreation In-Channel Diversion project at the popular Pumphouse Recreation Area near Kremmling.
The park, known as the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park, is the cumulation of five years of coordinated effort involving extensive planning, outreach, negotiation, water court processes, engineering, fundraising and permitting. Taking the lead on the initiative were Grand County commissioners, one of five major funding partners, including Eagle County, the Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado River Basin and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Grand County government, boaters and citizens donated more than $600,000 toward the $1.7 million project, and Eagle County government and citizens donated $340,000. Other government funding came in the form of grants — $200,000 from Local Affairs, $100,000 from the River Basin, and $400,000 from the Water Board. This last, from Water Board’s legislated Water Supply Reserve Account, was a coup in itself. It is the first Reserve Account grant to be awarded for a recreational water right, recognizing the importance of both recreational and “non-consumptive water rights” in Colorado.
The final — and shortest — phase of the project was the actual construction, which was completed in March, on schedule and in under five months by Bryan Kissner and Kissner General Contracting. Designed by Jason Carey of RiverRestoration of Carbondale, the park was intended to create the desired recreational vision as well as ensure fish passage and aquatic macro-invertebrate protection, adhering to Grand County’s Stream Management Plan.
The man-made feature consists of a series of waves that can stretch across the width of the river, just upstream from Launch 2 at Pumphouse. It creates a “park and play” area where kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders and other whitewater enthusiasts can cycle through wave features repeatedly rather than continuing downstream. As with natural river features, changes in river flow will change the difficulty and navigation options through the site.
On Wednesday, several kayakers were testing out the waves. Buddy Olsen, a river guide from Timberline Tours in Minturn and a boating friend, Clark Gallo of Utah, drove out specifically for the whitewater park. Surfing and practicing tricks in the break, they had accolades for the site.
“It is phenomenal!” Gallo gleamed, “It is perfect for big aerials.”
Project participants appeared to be pleased as well. Watching the boaters from the new viewing platform, they discussed the overall enthusiasm for the project both within their groups and from community response.
“There was such great support for the project,” says Stephanie O’Dell, Field Manager of the Kremmling BLM office, which administers the Pumphouse Recreation Area. “So many people came together to make this work. It is really exciting for the area.”
While the group did identify a few necessary final-touches for the site — including sealing the railing on the viewing platform, putting in protective wells for new vegetation, and installing signage that will educate visitors about the park — the Gore Canyon Whitewater Park has been officially declared “open for non-business,” which should be good for business.
“Recreation is a huge part of the headwaters economy, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to Grand County businesses every year,” according to fundraising documents. “The whitewater park is an investment in recreational infrastructure that will benefit the entire regional economy.”
A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for July 13 and will crown the successful creation of this section of the upper Colorado as a headwaters recreational asset. The public is invited to attend and experienced whitewater boaters are encouraged to gather and show off their whitewater prowess throughout the afternoon.
For more information about being part of the event, contact Coordinator CarolineBradford@wildblue.net or call 970-688-0812.
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