The Healthy Rivers Whitewater Park is the successful result to use recreation in and around the Roaring Fork River as a tool for river protection, a use allowed in the state’s complex water laws. Located just up valley of the gold-medal fishing river town Basalt in Pitkin County, the park creates the right to maintain minimum stream flows critical to life in the river. Much of the parkland is a floodplain, inundated with water during high runoff season. Over the years, the community had informally created trails for exercising dogs, jumping BMX bikes and accessing fishing spots. Most of these efforts were in areas of high ecological value better protected from active use. Just before park planning, an artificial wave was constructed to create immediate river recreation for kayakers. The wave proved so successful that its users outgrew the basic infrastructure put in place to support the wave. Conflicts began to emerge as kayakers, anglers, and other recreationists competed for space. Rather than try to limit use to just one group or create areas that are off-limits, the Bluegreen team design explored numerous ways various groups make use or could make use, of the park area.
The resultant design emerged from the input of user group representatives who for the first time, were able to meet to discuss a common vision for this section of the river. Feedback from those responsible for the park’s maintenance revealed overall affordability and durability of materials. Permanent features were designed to allow flood waters to flow unimpeded. Raised walks and decks were located away from ecologically sensitive areas while creating circulation loops and experiences of the unique cottonwood gallery and ponderosa forest. Rocks used to harden the stream bank are organized to create river access, boat and equipment staging, and spectator seats and perches. Found objects, such as significant tree snags and expansive cobble fields, are used to create play areas. Plantings are native species that contribute to the canopy and understory of the cottonwood and ponderosa plant communities.
project type: site planning, landscape architecture
location: pitkin county
client: pitkin county