This story initially appeared in the Roaring Fork Weekly Journal, our sister publication covering the midvalley. For more, visit www.rfweeklyjournal.com.
After spending the last few years in limbo, the future of Basalt’s River Park finally seems to be taking shape after the latest sketch plan for the area met with unanimous approval during a Basalt Town Council work session earlier this week a night prior to the council’s regular meeting.
Presented by Heather Henry, a partner with Basalt-based Connect One Design, the plan is a refinement of the “Eddy Out” concept unveiled by Connect One at a meeting in September. Taking its cue from the Roaring Fork River, which flows along the southern edge of the park property, the Eddy Out concept is designed to flow naturally from one space to the next while evoking the swirls of the river.
The most obvious features of the design are a great lawn that is more than four times as large as the concert lawn in Basalt’s Lions Park and a bandshell inspired by the town’s historic coke ovens that offers roughly twice the space of the one currently in Lions Park. Between hardscape and lawn seating, the additions would allow the town to host concerts for more than 4,000 people — “basically the whole town of Basalt,” as Henry noted.
On the practical side, the plan would include a bus stop and shelter, public restrooms, a restaurant with a large patio overlooking the great lawn and a new home and gallery for Basalt nonprofit The Art Base.
On the fun side, the plan would call for a motion-activated, misting water feature made with basalt rock elements, large hay bale-like structures for kids to climb on, a tall climbing tree, slacklines, a berm with a big slide and other integrated play features and willow “forts” in the existing wetlands. The forts would join a small, sandy beach area that already gives youngsters a place to explore the park’s marshes.
Other features that have been refined since Eddy Out’s last iteration include the three picnic areas, eddies along the river where boats can tie off, and an interactive, commissioned art piece slated for a spot on the hardscape outside the Art Base.
“The idea would be to have some kind of sculpture that’s an artful play feature that can anchor that plaza,” said Henry.
Following the presentation, the Basalt council members had a couple of questions regarding specifics, but their comments were mostly of the congratulatory kind. Gary Tennenbaum called it “a good job” and lauded the way the plan allows people to flow through the park into the town’s adjoining Old Pond Park. Ryan Slack called the plan “awesome” and said he couldn’t wait to see it. Bill Infante congratulated Connect One on their “great work,” and Jennifer Riffle said she was excited to see the plan’s evolution. “It keeps getting better and better, and it offers something for everyone,” she noted.
With the council seemingly of one mind regarding moving the project forward, Mayor Jacque Whitsitt gave her own blessing, stating that it was time to “refrain from micromanaging” something that has come to define her legacy in town and “pass the torch.”
Zane’s Tavern gets liquor license for Willits location
Following the park-plan work session, the council turned to its regular meeting on Tuesday, during which it briefly convened as the local liquor authority to consider an application for a liquor license from Zane’s Tavern. The popular bar and eatery, which has locations in Aspen and Snowmass Village, hopes to open a third branch in a new building on Robinson Street in Willits.
Town Clerk Pam Schilling opened the proceedings by introducing applicant Eddie Zane and noting that background checks done by the town’s police department turned up “nothing negative” and the fire department is going to work with Zane on ensuring the design of the tavern is safe.
The building, which faces Triangle Park and sits catty-corner from “restaurant row” along Harris Street, was recently completed, meaning that Zane’s is still “a long way away from getting a certificate of occupancy,” according to Schilling. The permitting and licensing process was started early, however, to allow Zane to proceed knowing whether or not he would have a liquor license when it comes time to open, which is anticipated to happen next spring.
Zane showed up at the meeting with 14 pages of signatures from people supporting the Tavern coming to Willits, but it was likely more than was necessary. With no additional comments, the council voted unanimously to approve the liquor license, which will be issued once Zane gets a certificate of occupancy and starts moving into the space.
“We’ve been tossing the idea of opening a midvalley location around for probably five to eight years,” said Zane after the hearing. “As Willits was slowly growing we always thought there was a need for something like we do down here, but we didn’t start looking seriously until about two years ago.”
The space, which appealed to Zane because it’s just the right size at roughly 2,400 square feet, was offered by the Willits developers before it was even built. Seeing how popular Zane’s Tavern’s other locations are, the developers actively sought Zane out to help pump up vitality and give Willits something it has lacked thus far: an affordable eatery that will serve food after other options have closed for the night. Zane plans to keep his kitchen open until midnight seven nights a week; few other restaurants in the Basalt area serve past about 9:30 p.m.
“I definitely feel like I can fill a niche down there with what I do,” said Zane. “People are excited that we’re coming down, so I’m excited to be there.”