Group ponders meander

Parks and Recreation Commission considers Bear River plan

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The city's Parks and Recreation Commission said it wanted to leave room in a proposed park plan for a possible river meander in the Bear River parcel.

The commission was not ready to fully support a change to the river in its recommendation to city council, saying that decision was outside its purview.

The question of whether the city should change the course of the river, an estimated $200,000 project, was the primary discussion at Wednesday's Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. More than 25 people attended to ask questions and give comments on what the plan should contain for an 18-acre parcel west of town that is an old sewer lagoon site.

Mountain West Design Group, LLC, presented two options to the commission. Alternative A did not change the course of the Yampa River; Alternative B did.

Alternative B also had a nine-hole Frisbee golf course, while Alternative A had 6.15 acres of undisturbed wetlands.

Both options had an unorganized playing field, a 17,000-square-foot concrete skate park, a 40-space parking lot, two basketball courts, and a children's playground. Alternative B's playing field was slightly smaller.

The commission voted to recommend Alternative B without a meander, but to keep the potential to someday put the meander back into the plan.

"I am in favor of creating a river that is as close to what it was 100 years ago," board member Peter Van De Carr said. "We have created a pretty bad situation downstream. Creating a meander is one of the only alternatives I see."

The commission also recommended that council encourage and find a way to organize landowners and other partners to move forward on creating a link of meanders on the west side of town.

"It is out of our scope," commission Chairwoman Jill Brabec said. "But, it does seem like we would support it."

Mark Oliver, a hydrologist for Basin Hydrology, worked on a river study three years ago and proposed the meander on the Bear River site. But at Wednesday's meeting, Oliver said, if only one meander were to go into the river, it wouldn't do much good. If the city would put in the meander in conjunction with other property owners, Oliver said, it would be very cost-effective and beneficial to the river.

The study proposed a series of meanders that went westward from the Riverside subdivision, west of County Road 129, to the KOA campgrounds. The changes would restore the river to the course it followed 50 years ago, before water uses by landowners changed its course, Oliver said.

Susan Otis, a resident, said that in channeling the river through the city, the Bear River parcel should be one of the areas that act as a flood plain and help slow down the river, which would prevent soil erosion farther downstream.

"The most important function should be helping to mitigate the impact we as a community created," Otis said

Scott Flower, who owns the neighboring Wolf Run Ranch, said fences have to be moved and thousands of dollars are spent every year to adjust to the erosion.

Flower said he has approval to put two meanders on his property, but would like support before moving ahead with a project that could cost half a million dollars.

"I am looking for partners. I am not going to take this on by myself," Flower said. "The river wants to meander. It needs to start slowing down when it gets to the other side of town, and no one wants to do it."

Otis said the Yampa River Legacy Project has between $90,000 and $100,000 dedicated to changing the course of the river in that area.

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