Wolford recreation revenues soar in 2020

file photo/Kim Cameron | Kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, swimming and fishing are all popular activities at Wolford during the summer.
file photo/Kim Cameron | Kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, swimming and fishing are all popular activities at Wolford during the summer.

by Marissa Lorenz
The Colorado River Water Conservation District (CRWCD) saw a nearly “four-fold increase” in funds generated by the use of Wolford Mountain Reservoir’s recreation area in 2020, according to River District Senior Engineer Hunter Causey.

“This year represents the biggest year of revenue for the River District from the recreation area in the recreation area’s history,” Causey stated. Noting that the rec area, consisting of Wolford Mountain Campground and Marina, generated $176,000 in 2020 compared to about $48,000 in 2019.

Causey offered several explanations for the unprecedented increase. “It was a very busy year,” he indicated, saying that that accounted for the increase to a small degree, “with people trying to get out and social distance.

“But more than that,” he continued, “the River District increased fees, so it costs a little more to camp and use the rec area. And secondly, the contract with the concessionaire was adjusted so that [CRWCD] gets a larger portion of the revenues.” Causey noted that 2020 was the first year that Pass Creek Investments, owned by Doug and Kristin Prewitt of Kremmling, had acted as the concessionaire at the Wolford Mountain Campground and Marina. “It was an unusual year for them to take this on and figure out how to do that work. But they’ve taken it in stride, and they’ve done a great job,” he stated. He further noted that with the fee increases, even given the contract adjustment, “it’s still a viable business for the concessionaire.”

Earlier during the same quarterly meeting of the River District Board, Directors also approved a contract for concrete repair at the Ritschard Dam at Wolford Mountain Reservoir.

Accompanying documents stated that “The River District is pursuing repair of aging damaged concrete at the service spillway, emergency spillway, and minor structures at Ritschard Dam. The concrete repair work is specialized, including pressurized injection to seal and repair cracks.”

The $85,000+ contract was awarded to B&RW Construction Company who performed similar work at Elkhead Dam in 2018 and was recommended by the State Dam Safety Office.

These updates preceded the discussion on dam safety at Wolford Mountain, where Causey also presented results of the most recent safety evaluation, which indicated a much higher risk of failure and “damage states” in the dam’s construction than previously assessed.

“The repairs are necessitated by aging concrete that is constantly exposed to the elements,” clarified Audrey Turner, River District Chief of Operations. “The concrete repair work is completely unrelated to any deformation of Ritschard Dam. The work is planned for late summer 2021.”

In an initial response to the safety report, the River District will limit the maximum level of the reservoir to 10 feet below the height of the spillway in 2021. In previous years, reduced water levels have meant an interruption in recreation activities, but District staff has indicated that they do not believe this will be a factor, at least going into the summer season.

Speaking to the Kremmling Town Council, River District General Manager Andy Mueller affirmed that “during very dry years, the reservoir can get quite low. And when it drops extremely low it does interrupt recreation. We recognize that, and we try to manage it in a way that maximizes recreation. But the primary function is for water storage and to provide water in times of need.”

The River District put in a new swim beach in 2019 and will be adding floating moorings in 2021 that should help support ongoing recreation activities in spite of reduced water levels.