Regular users of the Animas River Trail might have noticed several tons of boulders piled up on the side of the trail near the Wastewater Treatment Plant at Santa Rita Park.
The rocks are part of a unique collaboration between the city of Durango and the local detachment of the Army National Guard, and city officials say it will save the city more than $100,000.
Members of the 947th Engineer Company, which is based in Grand Junction with detachments in Fort Carson and Bodo Industrial Park, are swapping free labor for the opportunity to use their equipment in real-world situations.
The rocks will be at their current location until 2013, when the city expects funding to be available to move them into the Animas River to upgrade the Durango Whitewater Park, said director of Parks and Recreation Cathy Metz.
John Brennan of the Durango Whitewater Club said the rock features will make a huge difference by prolonging the season.
Late fall boating, early spring boating, winter training for the average recreational boater, it will prolong the season, if the structures are designed correctly, Brennan said.
The upgrades are the result of a heavily protested water-rights settlement from 2007. The resulting recreational in-channel diversion, as the citys water right is called, allows the city to use up to 1,400 cubic feet per second of Animas River flow for a whitewater park.
According to a study from the citys application for the water right, recreational use of the Animas brings $19 million in economic activity to the area.
The in-stream portion of the project is expected to cost the city about $1.1 million, plus the cost of a permit from the Corps of Engineers. Metz said the project could be completed earlier than 2013 if money becomes available.
The project is a collaboration among the city, the National Guard, the Durango Whitewater Club and the Glacier Club, which is donating the granite boulders.
The rocks were blasted out of a hill at the Glacier Club luxury community north of Durango. The rest of the rocks were given to the Animas-La Plata Project for use covering Ridges Basin Dam, said Greg Drover, director of development and construction for the Glacier Club.
The area cleared likely will be used for future development, Drover said.
Last June, the city put the rock-haul project out to bid and publicly noticed it for three weeks, as required by law. Not surprisingly, nobody could beat the Guards offer to work at no cost.
The city saves $140,000 by having the Guard start the project, said Metz, who acknowledged the city is getting a pretty good deal.
But City Manager Ron LeBlanc said the various projects the National Guard members are doing werenot in the citys budget and likely wouldnt have been completed without their assistance.
The offer comes through the National Guards Innovative Readiness Training program. The programs focus is on hands-on training for wartime missions, said 1st Lt. Eric Carlton, leader of the Durango detachment.
As an engineering unit supporting combat troops, they need to execute with high mobility, speed and efficiency, he said. The detachment already has worked on a similar project near Fruita, assisting with the construction of a reservoir.
It took two dozen men and women many of whom are veterans of the Iraq or Afghanistan wars three weekends over three months to move the 3,600 tons of rock from the Glacier Club to its current location off the river trail. They used a 36-ton excavator to put the rocks into 20-ton dump trucks, one rock per truck.
Carlton said his unit has plenty of work lined up.
Some people say were taking work away from local contractors, Carlton said. Were just trying to get training and help municipalities. ... Were basically a construction company, if no one else wants to do the work.
Last year, LeBlanc asked three of his departments to prepare lists of work projects that align with the objectives of the Innovative Readiness Training program.
The following projects were selected:
b Regrade Smelter Mountain Road, which leads to the citys communications tower at the top of Smelter Mountain. The dirt road, also known as County Road 210, also will need drainage work completed.
b Remove construction debris and concrete material from a Public Works storage site near the Centennial Mall in Bodo Industrial Park. The material has been collected from various Public Works projects over the years and stored at the 2-acre Centennial yard.
b Install a box culvert for the Crestview Ditch, just below Overend Mountain Park. The culvert will collect runoff at the base of the park and hook it to a storm sewer line.
b Construction of a berm at the Water Treatment Plant in the Hillcrest neighborhood. The berm will be a grassed mound of dirt that will aid in drainage.
Metz said the projects should be completed by 2012. She didnt know how much they would save the city.