Met Rec’s all in for river recreation
When the weather in Gunnison Valley springs into its balmy phase, residents are drawn to the area’s rivers like fish to water. It’s no wonder that valley-wide river access infrastructure has been a high priority for the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District, or Met Rec.
In the last few years, Met Rec has supported the development of two major river park projects: Gunnison’s Shady Island River Park and Crested Butte’s Slate River Boat Launch. Both promise to make river recreation easier to navigate.
Shady Island River Park, on the Gunnison River just north of Gunnison, has transformed a former put in/take out area that was undersized, overcrowded, and unsustainable. Now it’s a 10.5-acre park with improved river access along with shoreline fishing, restrooms, picnic tables, playground, trails, and a campground coming soon.
Gunnison County purchased the land in 2017. Met Rec’s support for the Shady Island River Park began in 2018, with a $30,000 grant award to catalyze the project’s planning phase. These funds helped spearhead the County’s effort to tap into additional state and national funding sources. To further the park’s implementation Met Rec awarded an additional $45,000 to the project in 2019.
In 2021, Met Rec awarded $24,000 to the Town of Crested Butte to build the Slate River Boat Launch, a riverfront park just north of downtown Crested Butte. The park has interpretive signage identifying wildlife habitat, property boundaries, and river etiquette; changing areas; a portable toilet; racks for kayaks and paddle boats; and trash receptacles. It also has stone slab steps and a timber boat slide to help get boats up and down the steep slope leading to the river’s edge. In addition, there’s a a 70-foot-long pebble beach area to help ease the put in/take out process.
Besides creating a much-needed recreation amenity, the park mitigates the long-standing congestion at the previous Slate River access point, the Rec Path Bridge, which crosses the most heavily used trail in the valley.
With improved access to the Slate and Gunnison rivers, the valley’s river recreation opportunities have become more sustainable for residents and visitors alike.