Shovels ready?
Construction on Oxbow Park, north ART to take place next year

Shovels ready?

The City first acquired the 46-acre Oxbow property in the summer of 2012. Shortly thereafter, talk turned to the possibility of public access and adding a boat ramp or river put-in. Residents were often split on the idea, and debates continued over the next several years as city officials put together plans for extending the northern section of the Animas River Trail and developing Oxbow Park and Preserve./Photo by Stephen Eginoire

Tracy Chamberlin - 12/06/2018

The wait is over – well, sort of. Almost two years ago, the City of Durango completed plans to extend the northern section of the Animas River Trail and build a boat ramp, trails, parking and other facilities at Oxbow Park and Preserve. Next month, the city is hoping to actually start construction.

That’s if the weather allows. Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said it wouldn’t be the first time construction has taken place along the Animas River Trail in the winter, but it’s up to the contractor to decide whether or  not shovels will hit the ground in January. If they can, she added, they will.

“We do intend to initiate construction in January,” Metz said.

The city first acquired the 46-acre Oxbow property in the summer of 2012. Shortly thereafter, talk turned to the possibility of public access and adding a boat ramp or river put-in. Residents were often split on the idea, and debates continued over the next several years as city officials put together plans for extending the northern section of the Animas River Trail and developing Oxbow.

In all, the city hosted about 25 public events on the issue and even more meetings with individuals living in the area. Final construction plans were released to residents in early 2017.

With so much time passing since the final plans were released, city officials decided to host a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thurs., Dec. 13, at the Durango Rec Center. It will be a chance to remind the public of the overall design, reasoning behind many of the decisions and answer any questions.

The final plans are to extend the Animas River Trail from Animas City Park at East 32nd Avenue all the way to Oxbow Park and Preserve, just about a mile away. The trail will follow the tracks of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, crossing over its path in two spots – one at East 36th Street and another at the edge of Oxbow Park.

Along the way, the new trail will be built to accommodate residents’ requests to either have some privacy  from the trail or direct access. Metz said city officials took the time to work with residents who live along the proposed path’s construction because not everyone wanted the same thing. In the end, they worked to navigate specific requests while keeping the trail’s appearance – in both materials and style – as consistent as possible.

Construction will begin at both ends of the proposed trail extension and meet in the middle. It will likely take all of 2019 to complete the project.

If things go smoothly and the City is able to open Oxbow Park for use next summer, it will happen. But, according to Metz, construction will probably be ongoing throughout the year, and the park won’t be ready to open to the public until 2020.

When it does open for public use, Oxbow will have changing rooms, bathrooms, picnic tables, natural surface trails, a boat ramp, beach access and a much-needed parking lot.

“It was really important for us to provide parking,” Metz said.

One of the key issues with Oxbow in the past has been the lack of parking. Anyone looking to access the area had to either walk along Animas View Drive or park illegally. The new lot, however, will include about 25 spaces.

Another top issue raised by residents during the outreach events was the need for another access point along the Animas River. The design includes a boat ramp for smaller craft, a turnaround area for vehicles, a tie-off area at the river’s edge and other site-specific features.

Funding for the project comes from a $1.4 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado – which the city must use by the end of 2020 – and revenues raised from the City’s half-cent sales tax dedicated to Parks and Recreation projects.

Just the Facts

What: Community meeting on construction of Animas River Trail northern extension and development of Oxbow Park and Preserve
When: 5:30 p.m., Thurs., Dec. 13
Where: Durango Rec Center
For info.: 375-7321 or rec@durangogov.org