Project Highlight: Shady Island River Park

Shady Island Boat Launch and ParkIt is a special time of year when the Gunnison River rises and the surrounding cottonwoods pop with green leaves. The lushness of the corridor pulls us in. Rafts bob down the river with smiling anglers. Friends convene on the shores where dogs race to fetch sticks. 

The Gunnison River has long served as a prized, community natural resource that provides social, environmental, and economic benefits. A 2018 report conducted by the Outdoor Alliance, found that “paddlers of different varieties visit the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre & Gunnison National Forests around 26,000 times per year, including commercial and non-commercial visits.”

As the outdoor recreation industry continues to boom in Colorado, impacts are easily felt at the local level. From trailheads to campsites and river access points. For this reason, local and regional partners are actively working to build and improve recreation infrastructure that can accommodate the growing user numbers- Gunnison County’s Shady Island River Park seeks to do just that. 

A project of this scale required the County to take a multi-year approach, which began with the purchasing of the 10.5-acre Shady Island parcel in 2017. The need for a new and improved river access point was clear. The go-to North Bridge site had become increasingly crowded and unsustainable. It lacked the necessary amenities such as bathrooms, trash service, and unloading zones. The new river park, set to open this summer, will provide river access for boats, shoreline fishing, walk-in tent camping, a nature-play obstacle course and playground, and picnicking areas. 

The park’s development was guided by ample community input. As a result, it will serve a wide array of community members from youth, Latinx community, Western Colorado University students, senior citizens, boaters, anglers, walkers, and nature lovers. 

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. Oftentimes, when large funders such as Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) consider contributing to a project, they require “matching funds”. Matching funds are financial contributions made by other entities that demonstrate broad support for a project. Many foundations and funding sources require some level of local commitment for them to consider making a sizable contribution. 

To further the park’s implementation and aid the County in securing more funding, Met Rec awarded an additional $45,000 to the project in 2019 as part of its Developed Recreation Grant Program. 

We’re thrilled to see the park welcome its first visitors this summer! 

Shady Island