DEL NORTE- Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP) Executive Director Emma Reesor welcomed a group of individuals from across the Valley to a webinar on Wednesday, June 3, to discuss the new playwave that was installed in the Rio Grande in Del Norte this spring. Joining Reesor in presenting was Chris Pitcher of Riverbend Engineering, the project engineer that designed the new playwave and associated fish habitat improvements throughout the river adjacent to the park. The purpose of the webinar was to focus on the functionality of the playwave and to answer any questions the public may have.
Reesor explained the RGHRP is a local nonprofit organization with the mission to restore the health of the river for all those who use it, including ecosystems and wildlife, agriculture, recreation and community safety. “We accomplish this through partnerships to implement multipurpose projects and the Del Norte Riverfront project is a great example of that.”
Reesor continued by saying the Del Norte Riverfront project is a grassroots effort to address community needs like access to the river, recreational opportunities, economic diversity, and to improve the environmental condition of the river corridor. “From those conversations came the vision of the project, which is to create connectivity between the community of the San Luis Valley and the river. By doing that, we created recreation opportunities, improved access and improved the ecological condition of the aquatic and riparian habitat.”
Reesor then addressed that the project had been identified as a priority in 2008 with the Del Norte Trails masterplan which identified the need for river recreation in the area. “The Del Norte Trails masterplan identified the important need of the community to have river recreational opportunities and the SLVGO masterplan identified that need as well. Those two documents really highlighted that the communities of the Valley wanted to focus on river recreation.”
In 2015, the RGHRP brought together a coalition of key partners, including the Town of Del Norte, Del Norte Trails Organization, Trout Unlimited, and community members to begin the initial planning and fundraising for the project.
Over the next several years, project partners worked together to complete community outreach, designs by Riverfront Engineering, permit documents and fundraising. “It was really a very lengthy design and permit process. It was important to meet the community needs. Once we received the permits and began construction, we started with the boat ramp because that was what we had funding for and in the spring of 2019 the Town of Del Norte received funding through Great Outdoors Colorado to complete the playwave and additional river work and park improvements.”
“The community told us that they wanted to see a space that multiple users could enjoy. Fisherman, families and boaters really wanted to be able to get to the river which was something we wanted to make sure the designs allowed.”
The combined efforts of the RGHRP, Town of Del Norte, Trout Unlimited, Del Norte Trails Organization, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and other community groups helped incorporate diverse concerns and interests into the project designs.
Overall, through the help of several funders the total project cost was $750,000. Construction on the playwave was completed in April of this year and is now being used by recreators. Beginning in June, the organization will be working on the park aspects of the project on the north side of the river, including the picnic pavilion with ADA access, parking area and signage though the area remains closed to the public until construction is complete.
During the webinar, the project engineer Chris Pitcher provided more detailed information on the designs and intended use of the playwave structure. Pitcher explained that the structure includes fish passage on the south side, which is not meant to be used by recreators as a wave. The playwave ramp is located on the northern third section of the structure and is designed to create a standing wave for kayakers, surfers and other river users and varies in difficulty depending on river flows.
Both Reesor and Pitcher answered a wide range of questions from community members attending the webinar, creating valuable discussion for those interested in using the playwave.
Reesor expressed her appreciation for the parties that came together for this great community project and for the many organizations that contributed funds. Project funders included Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Gates Family Foundation, San Luis Valley Conservation Connection Initiative, Laura Jane Musser Fund, Rio Grande County, Del Norte Bank and community donors.