Breckenridge receives $350,0000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado for new park
April 27, 2017
Since Breckenridge began restoring the Blue River along Colorado State Highway 9, the corridor has become an area of interest for development. The new Denison Placer workforce-housing units are under construction, and the town is eyeing other spots — Block 11 and the McCain property — as potential spots for future housing projects. After receiving a grant last month from Great Outdoors Colorado for $350,000, the town has started the process of planning a park to help connect those projects. Anne Murphy, the open space and trails manager in Breckenridge, said they are hoping construction on the Oxbow Park will start next spring.
"We really think (the park) opens up a lot more possibilities to get kids engaged in the outdoors and have a natural setting to learn in," she said. "It's fun to get to think creatively in working with these designers on how we can reach all the different age groups of kids that we want and create a special place."
Plans to restore the Blue River started as far back as the 1980s, but weren't set into motion until the late '90s. The town started by reclaiming the area of the river in the heart of town by the Riverwalk Center. The project to revive the river up to Coyne Valley Road was finished last year. Some projects with the river, such as landscaping, are still ongoing.
Back in 2008, the town developed the Blue River Corridor master plan, hoping to build small clusters of parks, including Oxbow, along the river, connecting the bike path to Colorado Mountain College, as well as Upper Blue Elementary and the Timberline Learning Center. Oxbow Park will be located just south of where the construction for Denison Placer is currently happening.
Population growth has increased enrollment at child care facilities and schools. Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe, who was on the Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Committee, said that the town has been working to improve recreation and playground areas north of Breckenridge to help accommodate that growth. One project was to upgrade the playground at the recreation center.
"To be able to have that park right along the river is going to be a wonderful community benefit," Wolfe said. "We just see a lot of family interactivity in that area, and I think this really serves that well."
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Shannon Smith, the interim capital projects manager with the town, said that some projects from the master plan have already been implemented, such as planting trees along the Blue River. One of the possible parks in the master plan would be close to Upper Blue Elementary, and could expand on the ballpark there and potentially add a dog park. Oxbow is the first park from the master plan to come close to the construction phase.
"This is the first park of that master plan that we're implementing, based on its location," Smith said. "Whether the future parks get implemented, it's up in the air."
The town already has some preliminary designs from DTJ Design, Inc., in Boulder. Instead of a more traditional playground, Oxbow will have a focus on nature play, built around a river theme. The park will also have seasonal restroom facilities and a fishing dock. A bridge will be built across the Blue River to connect Oxbow to the recpath.
The nature play aspect of the park will target multiple age groups. Town staff coordinated with local day care facilities on park planning. They've also worked with the rec center to bring outdoor programming to the future park. Murphy said that she's hoping, once construction on the park has started, they can get the kids involved even further.
"We're hoping to engage them in some tree planting, shrub planting and let them have a little bit on ownership in the project and get their hands in the dirt," she said.
Getting to build Oxbow Park is likely to be a two-year process. The town is currently working with DTJ to finalize the park's layout. Once that's completed, the town will put out a request for a contractor. Murphy said that they may apply for more funding through Great Outdoors Colorado once they hit the construction phase of the park in next spring. Construction could possibly be finished by the end of 2018.
For Wolfe, the development Oxbow Park and the rest of the land north of town may take a while, but it's worth it.
"It's going to be a work in progress for I think years to come, but that's a great situation to be in," she said.
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