CRAIG — With the upcoming closure of coal mines and energy vegetation in northwest Colorado, Craig officers and river fanatics are hoping a long-overlooked pure useful resource simply south of city can assist create financial resilience.
The town has utilized for a $1.8 million grant from the federal Financial Improvement Company for the Yampa River Hall Mission, which can 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 venture is a part of a multi-pronged strategy to assist rural Moffat County transition from an extraction-based financial system to at least one that features outside and river recreation as considered one of its major pillars.
“(River use) has positively grown within the final couple of years,” stated 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 ability vegetation. Individuals tubed the river and fished in it generally, however it 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 venture elements. The primary section of the proposed venture would come with improvements 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 venture would additionally create higher waves, pool drops with a fish passage, two entry factors and a portage path at what’s often known as the Diversion Park, in addition to enhance town’s diversion construction.
The overall venture value is roughly $2.7 million. A second venture section, 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 will probably 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 luggage and drying racks, that are fashionable among the many boating group. That is the fourth season for his firm and Veenstra stated the momentum is unbelievable.
“What it’s going to do is give Craig a way of id,” he stated.
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 provided by two native mines, Trapper and Colowyo, plans to shut all three of Craig’s items by 2030. Xcel, whose plant is situated in close by Hayden, plans to shut each its items by the top of 2028.
In response to Holloway, the closures characterize about 800 misplaced jobs.
“All of our eating places survive off the ability plant staff, all of our retail, all the remainder of our companies,” she stated. “Most of our small companies downtown are run by girls whose husbands work within the mine. So I feel we’re going to see a mass changeover of individuals leaving.”
Holloway is specializing in ag-tourism, the humanities and outside recreation as industries that may assist substitute misplaced jobs. Though she acknowledges that tourism jobs usually don’t pay the excessive wages of extraction industries, outside recreation has been recognized as an trade with a big potential for progress 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 staff can work remotely from wherever that has web. It has additionally elevated curiosity in outside recreation. Mission supporters say bettering the river hall may assist entice a brand new demographic within the outdoor however who don’t wish to pay the premiums of a resort group, like close by Steamboat Springs.
“Entrepreneurs within the rec trade can be a fantastic match,” Holloway stated. “A warehouse right here can be a lot cheaper than Steamboat. If we may get a few of these entrepreneurs, that will entice those who have a distant job or enterprise elsewhere however that need the agricultural outside way of life.”
Recreation water proper
Though metropolis officers are transferring ahead with plans to construct the whitewater park, they’re — for now at the very least — forgoing a step that might assist shield their newly constructed asset and preserve 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 known as a leisure in-channel diversion or RICD. This kind of water proper ties an quantity of water vital for an affordable leisure expertise to the river options.
A RICD can assist be sure there may be sufficient water within the river for boating, however it additionally has the potential to restrict future upstream water improvement. Beneath Colorado water legislation, often known as the prior appropriation system, older water rights have first use of the river and due to this fact, a RICD doesn’t have an effect on present senior water rights.
“It’s one thing that we have now had some dialogue about and we’re trying carefully at; it may be type of political,” stated Craig Metropolis Supervisor Peter Brixius. “I’ve not personally heard from of us, however I do know persons are against it.”
Brixius stated the dialog a few RICD is on hiatus at the very least till the autumn.
With out a water proper, which might safe the whitewater park’s place in line, future upstream water improvement may jeopardize having sufficient water for the park.
Peter Fleming, common counsel for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, stated 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 threat sooner or later that someone goes to develop some water upstream that will both scale back or eradicate solely the good thing about this expenditure, then yeah, you go to water courtroom and attempt to shield this funding you’ve gotten made,” he stated. “Even in the event you 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.”
Seeking to the longer term
The town expects to search out out if it bought the EDA grant in early fall. The venture has additionally obtained 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 entice guests, contribute to advertising and marketing 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 training utilizing the brand new river hall space.
“Craig is among the coolest little cities,” he stated. “The closure of the ability plant, everyone says it’s going to be the downfall of Craig. It’s the most effective factor that might 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.