Steamboat Springs just got a little bigger and a little better.
By the end of this weekend, a one-fourth-mile boardwalk that offers a peaceful walk along a previously inaccessible piece of the Yampa River will be completed.
The boardwalk was built in the Rotary River Park, a 10-acre piece of land adopted by the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs in 1993.
Until now, only three acres of the park were accessible.
"Most of the land is under water in the spring," said Chan Coyle, Rotary president-elect and boardwalk project chairman. "Until now, the only people who knew about this area were the fly fishermen."
In 1993, the Rotary Club developed a three-phase plan for the park. The first phase included the installation of park benches, trees and irrigation. The second phase was the construction of a parking lot. And the third phase was the design and installation of an elevated boardwalk. Park benches and a parking lot were put in place years ago.
In celebration of Rotary International's 100 year anniversary, each of the organization's 32,000 clubs was asked to conceive and implement a Centennial project as a gift to their communities in 2005.
Originally, the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs discussed the creation of a youth center, Coyle said, but it finally agreed to finish what it had started at the Rotary River Park with the construction of a boardwalk.
"This project was far bigger than we ever imagined," Coyle said.
The boardwalk is constructed out of Trex, a maintenance-free building material made of sawdust and plastic. The boardwalk has a railing for safety in most sections and is wheelchair accessible.
What started as a simple boardwalk turned into an environmental and educational project. Deb Fuller, executive director of Yampatika, wrote educational signs about the wildlife and plant life in the area. The signs are written in English and Spanish.
The boardwalk has three fishing platforms with benches and signs that describe the unseen life under water.
In the end, the project cost $300,000 to build and more than 5,000 hours of volunteer time.
The Rotary Club received several grants for the project, including $114,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado, $7,500 from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Beautification Fund, $1,250 from the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, $2,500 from the Ski Corp. Environmental Fund and a $2,500 donation from the Northwest Colorado and Southern Wyoming Rotary District.
Local Rotary Club members raised $80,000 in private donations.
The boardwalk design needed to be simple so it could be built by volunteers with little or no construction experience. Construction started in September 2004.
Volunteers with Great Outdoors Colorado provided 150 volunteers from across the state to help with construction. Rotary Club members did the rest.
"The neatest thing about this project was the fellowship that came out of it," Coyle said. "Rotary is a 100-person club. You see people at meetings. You know their names, but you don't really know them.
"But after spending a couple weekends up to our hips in water (building this boardwalk), we became friends."
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