With the approaching closure of coal mines and energy vegetation in northwest Colorado, Craig officers and river fans are hoping a long-overlooked pure useful resource simply south of city may also help create financial resilience.
Town has utilized for a $1.8 million grant from the federal Financial Growth Company for the Yampa River Hall Mission, which is able to refurbish boat ramps, add parking areas and a whitewater park, in an effort to develop the Yampa River as a supply of outside recreation and native delight. The challenge is a part of a multi-pronged strategy to assist rural Moffat County transition from an extraction-based financial system to 1 that features out of doors and river recreation as certainly one of its foremost pillars.
“(River use) has positively grown within the final couple of years,” mentioned Jennifer Holloway, govt director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce. “Consciousness that the river could possibly be a part of our future has grown. It had simply not been on our radar as a city. We had the coal mines, we had the facility vegetation. Individuals tubed the river and fished in it generally, but it surely was not checked out as an financial asset till the previous few years.”
An August 2020 preliminary engineering report by Glenwood Springs-based guide SGM laid out the challenge elements. The primary part of the proposed challenge would come with enhancements to Loudy Simpson Park on the west finish of city, together with a ship ramp, parking, a picnic space and vault rest room. The park is commonly a take-out level for tubers and boaters who float from Pebble Seashore, just some miles upstream. The challenge would additionally create higher waves, pool drops with a fish passage, two entry factors and a portage path at what’s often called Diversion Park, in addition to enhance the town’s diversion construction.
The whole challenge price is roughly $2.7 million. A second challenge part, which remains to be conceptual, would come with financial institution stabilization and a path connecting the river to downtown Craig.
Mission proponents see the river as one of many city’s most under-utilized facilities and say it could possibly add to the standard of life within the city of about 9,000.
Josh Veenstra is the proprietor of Good Vibes River Gear in Craig. The corporate rents paddle boards, rafts and tubes, runs shuttles on the Little Yampa Canyon and sells hand-sewn, mesh baggage and drying racks, that are well-liked among the many boating neighborhood. That is the fourth season for his firm and Veenstra mentioned the momentum is unbelievable.
“What it’s going to do is give Craig a way of identification,” he mentioned.
Transitioning from coal
Two of the area’s largest employers and power suppliers, Tri State Technology and Transmission and Xcel Power, introduced in 2020 that they’d be closing their coal-fired vegetation and mines. Tri-State, whose plant is equipped by two native mines, Trapper and Colowyo, plans to shut all three of Craig’s models by 2030. Xcel, whose plant is situated in close by Hayden, plans to shut each its models by the top of 2028.
In response to Holloway, the closures characterize about 800 misplaced jobs.
“All of our eating places survive off the facility plant employees, all of our retail, all the remainder of our companies,” she mentioned. “Most of our small companies downtown are run by girls whose husbands work within the mine. So I believe we’re going to see a mass changeover of individuals leaving.”
Holloway is specializing in ag-tourism, the humanities and out of doors recreation as industries that may assist change misplaced jobs. Though she acknowledges that tourism jobs usually don’t pay the excessive wages of extraction industries, out of doors recreation has been recognized as an business with a big potential for development and is recognized as a precedence in Moffat County’s Imaginative and prescient 2025 Transition Plan.
As well as, the pandemic has proven that many white-collar employees can work remotely from wherever that has web. It has additionally elevated curiosity in out of doors recreation. Mission supporters say enhancing the river hall may assist appeal to a brand new demographic within the outside however who don’t need to pay the premiums of a resort neighborhood, like close by Steamboat Springs.
“Entrepreneurs within the rec business can be an excellent match,” Holloway mentioned. “A warehouse right here can be a lot cheaper than Steamboat. If we may get a few of these entrepreneurs, that will appeal to people who have a distant job or enterprise elsewhere however that need the agricultural out of doors life-style.”
Recreation water proper
Though metropolis officers are transferring ahead with plans to construct the whitewater park, they’re — for now not less than — forgoing a step that would assist shield their newly constructed asset and maintain water within the river.
Many communities in Colorado with whitewater parks, together with Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Durango, Silverthorne and Vail, have a water proper related to the man-made waves, often called a leisure in-channel diversion or RICD. One of these water proper ties an quantity of water needed for an inexpensive leisure expertise to the river options.
A RICD may also help be certain there may be sufficient water within the river for boating, but it surely additionally has the potential to restrict future upstream water growth. Below Colorado water legislation, often called the prior appropriation system, older water rights have first use of the river and subsequently, a RICD doesn’t have an effect on current senior water rights.
“It’s one thing that we’ve got had some dialogue about and we’re wanting intently at; it may be sort of political,” Craig Metropolis Supervisor Peter Brixius mentioned. “I’ve not personally heard from people, however I do know persons are against it.”
Brixius mentioned the dialog a few RICD is on hiatus not less than till the autumn.
With no water proper, which might safe the whitewater park’s place in line, future upstream water growth may jeopardize having sufficient water for the park.
Peter Fleming, basic counsel for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, mentioned that whereas he can’t converse particularly for Craig, it is smart for a municipality to guard its place within the prior appropriation system with a water proper.
“If there could also be some danger sooner or later that someone goes to develop some water upstream that will both scale back or eradicate completely the good thing about this expenditure, then yeah, you go to water court docket and attempt to shield this funding you might have made,” he mentioned. “Even for those who don’t see something on the horizon that’s going to impression you, who is aware of what’s going to occur in 20 years.”
Trying to the long run
Town expects to search out out if it received the EDA grant in early fall. The challenge has additionally acquired funding from Moffat County, Associates of the Yampa, Trapper Mine, Northwest Colorado Parrotheads, the Yampa/White/Inexperienced Basin Roundtable, Sources Legacy Fund and the Yampa River Fund.
Metropolis officers are hoping the Yampa River Hall Mission will appeal to guests, contribute to advertising efforts to rebrand northwest Colorado and construct morale across the space’s financial future. For river gear store proprietor Veenstra, that future can’t come quick sufficient. He hopes to carry swift water rescue programs and do environmental schooling utilizing the brand new river hall space.
“Craig is without doubt one of the coolest little cities,” he mentioned. “The closure of the facility plant, all people says it’s going to be the downfall of Craig. It’s the very best factor that would ever occur to us as a result of it made individuals snap out of it and go, ‘Oh, we have to do one thing totally different.’ That’s why the whitewater park is getting constructed. It was a blessing in disguise.”
Aspen Journalism covers water and rivers in collaboration with the Craig Each day Press and Steamboat Pilot & At this time. For extra, go to http://www.aspenjournalism.org.