Yesterday evening about 10 supporters for the LaPorte River Improvement Project (new name) attended the meeting with the Larimer County Open Lands Program. Mandy did a great job presenting the project and addressing questions. This included presenting a stack of 106 letters of support to the panel.
In the end, the Open Lands Program agreed to go ahead and assign staff to review the management plan for Lions Park. This is the decision we needed, but it was not the smooth sailing we had anticipated. Here's my take on the major concerns:
1. The county is broke. There was an important discussion on whether it was appropriate to even assign County staff to examine/revise the park management plan to consider including the river modifications and activities. Estimated staff time to complete the review is on the order of 3 months (i.e., 3 mo FTE; the process will take much longer). This includes revising the plan, conducting public outreach and meetings, and responding to concerns.
2. There were a couple 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' discussions. On the one hand, we were specifically asked to demonstrate broad public support for the project. On the other hand, board members expressed concerns about overuse of the park.
3. A landowner downstream of the bridge (not adjacent to the proposed project area, as asserted by the landowners) is concerned about additional tresspass. They reported existing trespass problems with tubers, families swimming in the river, etc. - NOT kayakers, but they're concerned about additional use of the park and how this will affect trespass on their land.
4. Capacity of current facilities. See #2. The parking lot holds 20 cars and it occasionally fills, although not with the frequency reported at the meeting. I live out there and bike, walk, and drive by this park on a daily basis. The landowners reported the park was full yesterday afternoon, but this mid-week use was extremely unusual - there was a group sampling the river yesterday afternoon (i.e., these were not recreational users). The parking lot does fill sometimes on summer weekends.
5. Funding. There was a suggestion that 'the group proposing the park' raise the necessary funding first, then ask permission. Again, the County is broke, so we will need to raise funds for the entire project. Fortunately, there are several programs that we can apply to. The arguments here seemed a bit circular - we need permission to move into serious fund-raising, but it may be difficult to get permission without showing up with adequate funding. Some near-term tasks, like design, will likely require financial support.
Many thanks to ALL of you that submitted letters and offers to help. And especially those that participated in the meeting. The nearby landowner voiced legitimate concerns, and I'm not sure this would have gone through without your support.
We -- that's the royal 'we' -> it means Mandy so far -- will continue discussions with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Open Lands Program, land owners, and the plethora of others that need to be on board - Corps of Engineers, boating groups, all of you, etc., etc. Some of the rest of us will need to step up and help Mandy -- this is rapidly outgrowing the effort that one person can spearhead.
I don't know how much we'll be able to help the County or the DOW with the planning and evaluations they are required to conduct. These are the issues likely to be next on the table. If you have skills and expertise in hydrological modeling, fish habitat restoration/improvement, writing management plans, grant writing, or other associated tasks, please visit LaPorte Whitewater Park | Poudre Rock Report
and write a letter and fill out the 'what I'm willing to help with' boxes. Some folks have made very generous offers to help with construction - thanks!! One consultant noted that about half the cost of these features is usually in materials - rocks and such. If you have contacts or ideas on materials, please forward them.
I know some of you are anxious to hear, so I'll post this now. Mandy's in Denver today and will perhaps add something this evening.
In closing, there are no committments yet and some genuine issues to be resolved. But we're still moving forward and there's a lot of enthusiasm and support for the project - some from quarters that you might not expect!