The next recreation season at Lake Nighthorse is approaching, and the city of Durango has a question: What should recreational use look like this year?
Lake Nighthorse, a reservoir and recreation area south of Durango, had a record-breaking recreation season in 2020. People dropped by the 1,500 surface-acre lake intent on paddleboarding, fishing, swimming or just walking around.
But with so many types of wakeless use going on, the city wants to make sure everyone has a chance to play. That’s why city staff members are putting together two public input sessions this month.
“The city wants to continue to operate Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area to be inclusive of all recreation users ... in an environmentally sustainable and fiscally responsible manner,” said Cathy Metz, director of Durango Parks and Recreation.
The sessions will take place through Zoom, the video conferencing platform, at DurangoGov.org/zoom. Residents can attend 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22 and 4:30 to 7 p.m. Feb. 24.
At each public input session, community members will have an opportunity to share their desired use, conditions and/or schedule for recreation at the reservoir.
That way, all users – wakeboarders and paddlers alike – have the opportunity to weigh in and hear how the wide array of users hope recreation will be managed at the lake, Metz said.
Each session will include a staff presentation to lay the groundwork for the conversation and hold both large group and small group discussion. Advanced registration is required to help staff members organize the discussions, she said.
City staff members will take stock of the feedback from the first meeting and spend the second meeting exploring ways to adjust recreation with residents.
By gathering public input this month, city staff members will have enough time to announce any changes before the lake opens for the season April 2.
Interested community members can register by sending an email to [email protected] with their name and primary area of interest for recreation at Lake Nighthorse (paddling, swimming, fishing, wakeboarding, waterskiing or walking). The registration deadline is Feb. 19.
Those who can’t go to the meeting can send comments to the same email address.
The public input sessions are part of an adaptive-management process the city has used since the lake opened to the public in 2018, she said.
Lake Nighthorse is both a water source and recreation hub, created after decades of intergovernmental negotiations.
In 2020, the lake saw more visitors than it has in any other year since recreation started. In 2018, the city recorded about 48,000 visitors, and rough estimates from 2020 indicated that about 92,000 visited the lake.
In 2021, the new swim beach will be open for the entire season. Visitors will also be able to use a water flotation play structure at the swim beach. The city also completed a handicapped-accessible fishing dock in 2020.