The City of Glenwood Springs has decided to put a fence up on the downstream side of the bridge just below the play wave. The City has determined that it is a safety hazard for kayakers and surfers to cross the street back to the play wave after you get blown downstream. As I understand it the City and local police believe that traffic headed under the railroad track toward the roundabout does not have enough of a view corridor to safely see kayakers crossing the street.
Two weeks ago I sent the following message to a number of folks at the City:
I am writing this email to voice my concern over the idea of putting a fence on the downstream side of the Midland Bridge in West Glenwood. It is my understanding that the purpose of the fence is to stop kayakers from getting out on the south side of the river and walking back up across Midland to the whitewater park.
Our local community raised in excess on $1 million dollars to build the kayak park. If you place the proposed fence you will discourage people from coming to the wave. You will also create a safety hazard that must be considered.
In case you are not kayakers, let me please explain how this impacts our community resource and creates a safety hazard. The left (as you look downstream) side of the river is the only spot that is good for kayaks at higher water. This is the part of the feature that people come from around the country to surf. This is the side of the river that we used to host the U.S. National Kayak Team tryouts. When a kayaker comes off the wave they will try to hit the small eddy that is upstream of the bridge. As the water comes up even more and the wave gets better, it is harder and harder to catch the eddy on the left side. If a kayaker misses the upstream eddy there is a nice large eddy just downstream on the river left side. This is the eddy that kayakers currently use to get out of the river and walk up to and over Midland. If a fence is installed to prohibit people from getting out on that side of the river they will have to cross over to the north side of the river to get out. When the river is high a kayaker cannot cross over to the other side of the river without traveling a far distance downstream. During high water the north bank is covered with overhanging trees. There are not many safe places to get out. There is a private boat ramp a ways downstream that could be used but it is so far away that it would mean each time a kayaker takes a ride in the wave they have a 10+ minute walk back to the park. A typical surf lasts less than 60 seconds. If kayakers have to hike 10+ minutes for each surf they will simply go somewhere else to play.
The safety concerns are an issue as well. If a kayaker is surfing the wave and swims out of their kayak they will be aiming to get out of the river as soon as they can. This means they will be swimming their hardest to get to the left eddy just downstream of the Midland Bridge. It is basic river safety to get out of the river as fast as you can. What is the kayaker supposed to do once they are out of the river? Are they supposed to climb the fence, hike over the tracks or risk it all and try to swim across the river? What would happen if a kayaker who knows that there is a fence ends up swimming and try’s to swim to the right shore? IF they made it to the other side they would most likely get caught in the overhanging branches on the river right side. I think it would be a significant liability to effectively close the left side of the river downstream from the Midland Bridge.
I understand some people may have a safety concern but there has to be a better way to address it. If the concern is a kayaker getting hit by traffic why not put in a crosswalk? In the three years that the park has been in place there have been no publicized accidents with kayakers crossing the road. Why is this an issue right now? IF this is an issue because of the upcoming Stand Up Paddle even, the Stand Up Paddlers don’t even use the left side of the wave. This really is a kayaker issue.
For the safety of the kayakers on the river and to preserve our $1 million dollar investment, please consider some other options. A fence would seriously devalue our community’s investment. It would be like building a great bike path that did not have access.
As a local business owner and avid kayaker I would be happy to discuss any of these concerns with anyone who is interested in hearing a citizen’s perspective."
I encourage you to contact the City and express your opinion about the fence. I believe the fence could present a greater safety hazard than crossing the street. I also think this will keep some people from coming here and using the park.
If you reach out to the City please remember to be respectful. The City is trying to address a perceived safety concern. They are not out to get kayakers.