Parking congestion, poor ramp conditions and a non-existent staging area at the North Bridge access point along the Gunnison River are problems that fishing guide Cameron Rhodes knows well.
As a result of low flows upstream this summer, Rhodes has utilized the popular “put-in” more frequently — sometimes as many as five days a week. But the small dirt strip parallel to Hwy. 135 across from Garlic Mike’s restaurant is really only an easement for which state officials have turned a blind eye to use by the public.
“The hardest part is turning around,” Rhodes attested. “There’s no rhyme or reason to how people park. Nobody has told them what to do.”
Because of the problems at the river access spot, Rhodes welcomes a plan in the works by Gunnison County leaders that will replace the North Bridge put-in. The county received a $30,000 planning grant earlier this year from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) for what’s being called Shady Island River Park.
The parcel, formerly known as the Shady Island subdivision, is located just north of Garlic Mike’s restaurant on the east side of Hwy. 135. The $30,000 grant is being combined with monetary and in-kind contributions from numerous local partners to facilitate a plan for use of the 12-acre property, purchased by the county.
In recent months, county planner Rachel Sabbato has made the rounds among local stakeholders, gathering input for draft conceptual plans that will be presented to the public during an open house at the Gunnison Farmers this coming Saturday, Aug. 25.
Those meetings have included on-site visits with adjacent landowners and river outfitters as well as meetings with a youth group from the Gunnison Community Center and immigrant advocacy group Inmigrantes Unidos de Gunnison, as well as gathering input from the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited and others.
Sabbato is working with Margaret Loperfido of Sprout Studios to draft the conceptual designs.
Certain amenities — such as a boat ramp, restrooms, picnic tables and a covered pavilion are expected to be part of final designs. Yet, other additions remain up in the air, and whether they’ll be included depends in part upon public preference.
For example, one of two conceptual maps includes tent camping on site. Another question that Sabbato is looking to the public to help answer is whether two ramps — one for trailered vessels and another for kayaks and other small craft — are desirable. She noted that two ramps would require more space — whereas one ramp would allow greater river frontage.
“A big emphasis in this project is keeping this parcel as natural as possible,” Sabbato said. “We’re really interested in revitalizing that fishery through there.”
The county also owns property on the east side of the river. Yet, feedback thus far has suggested that the area should remain undeveloped to provide in-stream habitat for fish.
Following the open house this coming Saturday, Loperfido of Sprout Studios is expected to submit final plans to the county by early October. Then, that documentation will be used to create an application before county Planning Commission.
Thus far, the conceptual plans have received strong backing from numerous local groups — particularly in light of existing problems at North Bridge.
“It’s just a little bigger area that folks can put-in in a more organized fashion,” said Jesse Kruthaupt, Upper Gunnison project specialist for Trout Unlimited, “and we would like to have some educational signage on river stewardship that would be on that property.”
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
What: Open house during Gunnison Farmers Market on Shady Island River Park plans
When: Aug. 25, 9:30-noon
Where: IOOF Park, downtown Gunnison
What else: The public will be asked to weigh in on maps containing ideas for use of the property.