The River Park at Las Colonias has been dammed by the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department because of low water levels in the Colorado River.
The park, which first opened in May, has dipped below the needed 810 cubic feet per second (cfs), at which point it must be cut off from the main channel to protect critical wildlife habitat, said Parks and Recreation Director Ken Sherbenou.
“About 10% of the time throughout the year, it is expected to be below 810 cfs,” Sherbenou said. “The Army Corp of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife, it was very important to them and very important for achieving the primary objective of river restoration and riparian restoration and protection to have this situation where we do dam the slough, the river park channel, at 810 cfs and below.”
Sherbenou said the park itself is not closed, but that the experience will be different for users accustomed to the rushing water in the park. Participation is down significantly, he said.
“People can still come down,” Sherbenou said. “It’s more kind of beach time where you’re playing in the mud beside the water rather than necessarily playing in the water. So it’s just a different experience.”
While the park channel is dammed, the Parks and Recreation Department is moving ahead with projects in the area. It is seeking a permit for some additional work downriver of the park.
That work will allow a second standing wave to form in the River Park when the flow is restored, Sherbenou said. The original plan for the park was to have two standing waves, but the second hasn’t been operational.
“Once that (river work) happens, that should improve the flows where that wave will hopefully appear on that second feature just as people have seen on the first feature for the duration of the time that we’ve had the River Park open,” Sherbenou said.
He also said the dog park at Las Colonias that has had sod installed should be opening in the near future. He said a date has not been announced, but that it will be opening soon.
Dogs are not currently allowed in the River Park.
“It will be a good opportunity to have another thing for people to do at Las Colonias and also kind of counterbalance the fact that the River Park channel is not as fun or exciting as it’s been since May,” Sherbenou said.
The city will continue to monitor the water levels in the main river channel and will undam the park as soon as the flow is above 810 cfs again.
Sherbenou said the low water level is from the major drought in Colorado and that people should be prepared for damming of the park in the future as well.
“It’s a natural environment,” Sherbenou said. “It’s a river. It’s not a controlled environment and things change on the river, and people need to be prepared for that.”