A new pavilion, fishing dock and swim beach at Lake Nighthorse are expected to give visitors more options for recreation and help relieve congestion at the lake’s boat ramp.
The city of Durango expects to start construction next week on an area that will feature a new pavilion and fishing dock, said Cathy Metz, director of Parks and Recreation.
The amenities will be built near the existing boat ramp to provide convenient access to the water and an alternative to the busy boat ramp, she said.
A dock near the overflow parking lot provides one alternative to the boat ramp for visitors, particularly those launching nonmotorized craft. But many people are using the boat ramp to walk to the water, which can be problematic for drivers backing boats on trailers into the water, she said.
A paved pathway from the lower parking lot to a 384-square-foot pavilion and fishing dock will provide easy access to the water’s edge.
“I think it’s going to really alleviate the congestion,” Metz said.
Last year, Lake Nighthorse did not see as many visitors as it expected in the first year of recreation because of the 416 Fire and a boat ramp closure.
Low visitation last year caused revenues to fall short of expectations. But so far this year, revenues and visitation are up, city data show.
The lake has collected $152,493 so far this year, according to Parks and Recreation. During the same period last year, the lake generated $133,761.
The city’s goal is to collect about $300,000 this year through pass sales and contracts with vendors, Metz said earlier this year.
The new amenities are likely to increase the lake’s appeal to visitors by providing seating that is easy to access, said Recreation Manager Kelli Jaycox.
Currently, no picnic tables are available. But the city expects to place 12 picnic tables under the pavilion and around the lake this year, said Lee Petty, a city landscape architect.
Those with disabilities will also have better access to the lake by way of the paved pathway to the new floating dock that will provide access to the lake even as the water level fluctuates, Metz said.
Construction to build the recreation area is expected to close a portion of the lower parking lot at the lake and, on an as-needed basis, the courtesy boat dock may also be closed, she said. The work is expected to be finished this fall, near the end of the boating season, she said.
In October, the city expects to start work on a well near the entry to the lake to provide water that is needed to decontaminate boats carrying invasive mussels, Metz said.
Right now, the city is hauling in and paying for treated city water from a fire hydrant about 2 miles away near Bodo Industrial Park to decontaminate boats, she said. The city cannot use lake water for decontamination, she said.
The new recreation area and the well are expected to cost $558,800, Metz said. The city will split the cost of the projects with the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that owns the lake.
Next year, the city may build a new, 1½-acre swim beach at the lake as well.
The project has not yet been approved by the Durango City Council.
The beach is expected to be built below the overflow parking lot and feature a floating rubber playground, she said. A breakwater will help reduce the waves in the beach area for swimmers, she said.
The beach is expected to cost almost $1.4 million, Metz said.
Leveling the area and putting in sand are likely to be some of the most expensive parts of the project, Petty said.
“We want to get a depth of sand that is appropriate and feels comfortable,” he said.
The city must also put in erosion control to keep the sand in place, but that has yet to be designed, he said.
The new recreation areas will fill a definite need at the lake, said Matt Gerhardt, managing partner with 4Corners Riversports. The company rents paddleboards, canoes, kayaks and other equipment at the lake.
“There is not really a good place for people to sit and enjoy the lake from the shore,” he said.
However, Gerhardt has noticed more tourists and residents visiting the lake this summer compared with last summer, when smoke from the 416 Fire blanketed the area in the mornings, he said.
“This summer is definitely much improved over last year,” he said.