Steamboat Springs Consultants working for the city of Steamboat Springs recommend $3.8 million in improvements to the town stretch of the Yampa River.
The improvements were suggested at a meeting Thursday night to discuss the Yampa River master plan. They are meant to ensure optimal recreation opportunities while protecting the health of the river system. But that doesn't mean the improvements necessarily will be completed.
"Obviously, this is a big number and not something you're going to tackle all at one time," said Troy Thompson, president of Ecological Resource Consultants.
He was speaking to more than 30 people packed into a small conference room at Centennial Hall. The improvements recommended by engineers working for Thompson vary from stabilizing bank erosion and improving streamside vegetation, to installing streamflow meters in the downtown stretch. They recommend repairing several whitewater boating features and even installing a new one.
Craig Robinson, open space supervisor for the city's department of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services, said the study being undertaken by Thompson and his colleagues is a follow-up to the Yampa River Management Plan completed several years ago. The difference is that the new Yampa River Structures Master Plan will not deal with conflicts among different forms of human recreation.
"This plan will focus on what we can do to improve the health of the river and the recreation we enjoy on it," Robinson said.
Colorado Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist Billy Atkinson asked how the recommended projects would be prioritized.
Chris Wilson, the city's Parks, Open Spaces and Recreational Services director said all the projects would be taken into account in a broader master plan being developed for the city's public spaces.
"All of the special interests will come together and decide what the priorities are," Wilson said.
Engineers working for Thompson assigned numerical values to the urgency they attached to the different improvements. He also suggested the cost-effectiveness of the different improvement projects should be weighed. For example, he said, before the city spends $140,000 to install flow meters needed to enforce recreational in-channel diversion water rights, officials should decide whether they have the ability to actually increase summer flows in the town stretch of the Yampa.
Those attending the meeting were able to view posters of the recommended improvements on each stretch of the more than 6 miles of the Yampa in city limits. They also were asked for their feedback about the recommendations.
Kayak instructor Sarah Hamilton took a close look at the posters at Centennial Hall and reached a conclusion.
"I don't think it's worth putting money into the (river adjacent to) Iron Horse (Inn)," Hamilton said. "I'd put the money into improving the D-Hole," farther downstream next to the Depot Art Center.
Avid trout fisherman Jim Curd, who has worked on river improvements in the past, liked some of what he saw in a quick tour through the improvements. Pointing to a stretch of the Yampa just below Rotary Park, he said:
"I like that series of riffles and pools they're recommending. That should get some fish in there."
People interested in viewing the recommended improvements for each stretch of the river may contact the Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services department for a computer disk.