Eddy Out

The “Eddy Out” plan seemed to gain the most favor from Basalt-area officials who discussed new concepts for the undeveloped Basalt River Park on Wednesday.

Members of the Basalt Town Council, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Parks, Open Space and Trails Committee got their first look Wednesday afternoon at two proposed designs for the Basalt River Park in the heart of downtown. 

And while all present at the scheduled work session at the Roaring Fork Conservancy’s River Center liked both ideas, one called “Eddy Out” seemed to be the preferred alternative.

The designs, by Connect One Design of Aspen and Basalt, were based on feedback gathered through the 2014 Our Town planning process and through previous meetings with P&Z and POST. The idea behind both, according to Connect One’s Gyles Thornley, was to make something distinct and evocative of Basalt that pays homage to the history of the area.

The first concept floated was called Basalt’s Front Porch. The idea behind it was to have terraced spaces looking out over a great lawn that have the feel of sitting in a rocking chair watching neighbors pass by. The plan called for block seating with a motion-activated misting water feature near the corner of Midland Avenue and Two Rivers Road, as well as a hardscape terrace with play features and interactive art pieces.

Featuring a geometric feel with sharp angles, the Basalt’s Front Porch design would also call for moving the town’s iconic caboose — home to the Basalt Chamber of Commerce — from its location in Lions Park to a spot along Midland Avenue. The caboose would be augmented by a shade canopy that would also cover an adjacent stage area slightly larger than the bandshell currently in Lions Park.

The second design, “Eddy Out,” was meant to have a more natural flow to it and evoke the swirls of the Roaring Fork River, which makes up the southern edge of the park space. Featuring a circular great lawn with a bandshell reminiscent of the town’s historic coke ovens, the layout would call for a longer misting water feature, play features scattered throughout the park and willow “forts” for kids to explore.

river park

The undeveloped Basalt River Park lies on the banks of the Roaring Fork River, directly across from the town’s library.

The great lawns in both designs would be about the size of three tennis courts, and both would work to integrate with an adjacent restaurant space that will have a large patio overlooking the park. Both would also try to incorporate the outdoor spaces of the Art Base, which is scheduled to build a new home alongside the park.

The cost for either design would be in the range of $1 million, which was the figure Connect One was given to work with. One desired feature that likely won’t make the cut, however, was a proposed pedestrian bridge from the River Park across the Roaring Fork River to Midland Park (the public space next to the Basalt Regional Library). With a required span of as much as 650 feet, due to restrictions on building in the floodway on either side of the river, and an estimated price tag of about $2 million, the bridge was deemed by consultants Sopris Engineering to be unfeasible.

Also removed from the drawing board, for now, are features like fire pits and other energy consumers, as POST deemed such uses to be incompatible with Basalt’s mission to aggressively combat climate change.

Many other features are still possibilities, though, including, potentially, a whitewater park, places for kayaks and other craft to eddy out and tie up, a climbing tree and, in the Eddy Out proposal, a raised earth berm with a slide for kids. In keeping with Connect One’s design concepts, each feature would ideally have more than one use — for example, the coke oven bandshell could have a climbing wall on the inside — and the misting features would be able to be used year-round.

Following an hour-long presentation, the council, P&Z and POST members gave additional feedback to Connect One that mostly lauded the two designs. A number of people expressed a desire to make sure the caboose makes its way to the park, as it says “Basalt” perhaps more than anything else, and there were some comments related to incorporating features of both designs, which Connect One’s Heather Henry conceded will be the most likely outcome.

Ultimately, the assembled officials appeared confident that some combination of the two designs would work well, and they seemed ready to get moving. Asked to choose between the two, however, a slight majority favored Eddy Out, which they felt had more of a natural feel to it and seemed more in line with the identity of the town.

Todd Hartley writes for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at todd@aspendailynews.com.