Big Thompson Canyon Conservation and Recreation Planning Update

April 25, 2015

Zac Wiebe, Larimer County Department of Natural Resources, updated the Larimer County Commissioners and the Parks Advisory Board as to the results of the public input for developing the new Big Thompson Canyon Conservation and Recreation Plan.  The biggest priorities cited by the public are to restore fishing access and river habitat. CWF Issues Committee Co-Chair Walt Graul will attend and participate in appropriate meetings to ensure that this message does not become diluted.

Here is the link to the update, reported in the Loveland Reporter-Herald by Pamela Johnson on April 22:


Earlier - February 2015: 

Larimer County and Loveland held an open house on February 12, 2015 to take public input and discuss their process for developing the new Big Thompson Canyon Conservation and Recreation Plan.  The Plan will be for the Big Thompson River corridor from Loveland to Estes Park. (See information from the February 12 meeting at the end of this piece.)

Larimer County and the City of Loveland are leading an effort to assess recreation and conservation opportunities along the Big Thompson River from Loveland to Estes Park. The extreme flooding that occurred along the river in September 2013 caused extensive property damage and loss of significant economic, riparian, aquatic, and scenic resources. Nearly all of the highly popular public recreation facilities were obliterated, including parks, picnic areas, fishing access, and trailheads.

Through this Recreation and Conservation Assessment, Larimer County and the City of Loveland will work collaboratively with citizens and public agency, private and non-profit sectors to:

       •Assess existing protected lands and identify opportunities for conserving additional lands for wildlife and fish habitat,                   scenic viewsheds, and river resiliency; and to 

       .Enhance recreation access to public lands, including existing amenities and potential future opportunities, for fishing,             hiking, wildlife viewing and otheroutdoor recreation in the Big Thompson corridor. 

A top goal of this project is to contribute to on-going efforts to restore the river corridor to a condition that most benefits local residents and visitors.

This plan will address several types of recreation, so it is critical that they receive input from the public stressing interest in fishing access and other wildlife interests.  Ultimately this plan can impact what areas are maintained and/or acquired for such access - including parking areas etc. This is our chance to have a positive impact upon what happens in the canyon. After the flood in the late 1970’s the County acquired many parcels for public access, but it was mainly a reactive process. The difference now is that they want to take a proactive approach, so the potential is there to create a vision that when implemented will truly benefit the public and local residents for the future. With the current growth on the Front Range, this planning effort takes on special importance for those that enjoy outdoor recreation.

Report from the meeting February 12 by Walt Graul, FRIENDS OF THE BIG THOMPSON RIVER and CWF Issues Committee Co-Chair:

The intent was to gather ideas and other input from the public. The meeting was well attended and included landowners as well as a good showing of interested anglers. One encouraging aspect is that it is anticipated they will acquire new lands along the corridor from willing sellers, likely with FEMA funds.  During the meeting it also was clear that they hope to develop a few larger public use areas rather than many smaller access areas that existed prior to the 2013 flood. They even mentioned the concern of safety regarding many of the small pull-off spots. This bears watching closely. On behalf of FRIENDS OF THE BIG THOMPSON RIVER, in which CWF is a member, Walt stressed that although the idea of some larger areas was good, it would be a huge mistake to eliminate the many smaller areas for vehicle parking. The many small areas that existed prior to the flood were frequently full with angler vehicles or other recreational users. This allowed people to access the many parcels of public land that are scattered along the entire corridor. With a growing Front Range population we can expect more demand for such access areas, certainly not less.  Another need anglers raised is signage for all public access area. Historically there have been few signs. The County and City assured us that as the plans are developed there will be more opportunities for public input. We need to monitor the process and make sure we provide input as appropriate.

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