Bear River Park Master Plan
Location - Steamboat Springs, CO
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Bear River Park is an existing 18-acre park in Steamboat Springs, Colorado adjacent to the Yampa River. Located on the city’s west end, the river forms its entire southern boundary and has extensive wetlands, river access, and recreational opportunities.
The site was originally developed as a wastewater storage lagoon but with the completion of the sewage treatment plant and pipeline improvements, the lagoons were decommissioned, and the site could be transformed into a city park.
In 2004, the city developed a master plan for the property, however, the plan was developed before the public had access to the property and so the planning effort did not attract much community participation and as a result, has never been supported or implemented. Despite this lack of community involvement a few elements have been built in the park. These elements include a skate park, bike park, parking lot, and restroom.
In 2015, the city determined that an update to the existing master plan needed to be completed to garner proper public input and support. Oxbow Design Collaborative, in partnership with the City of Steamboat Springs Parks & Recreation and the National Park Service’s River, Trails, and Conservation Program engaged in a Master Planning process that aimed to balance the programmatic recreational needs of the community with ecological function, and river access.
There was and continues to be a tremendous amount of enthusiasm within the community for Bear River Park’s future. This was demonstrated through multiple well-attended interactive public meetings and feedback on design alternatives through an online platform throughout the design process. The process revealed a desire for active and specific recreational programming and the management of a passive sustainable landscape that will continue to function ecologically and everything in between.
The primary challenge in this process was to blend a range of priorities into a cohesive master plan. High among the priorities were providing for the needs of an underserved neighborhood on the west side of Steamboat Springs, to provide for a diverse array of recreational opportunities to serve the overall community, building upon existing infrastructure implemented in phase one, and finally, inviting visitors to engage with the river in a meaningful way, find solitude, and discover nature.
After extensive public input and multiple design alternatives, Oxbow presented a final master plan to City Parks & Recreation Commission for final input before presenting it to the City Council, which unanimously adopted the plan.