Fly fishing on the Purgatorie

Bob Sipe from Alabama takes time to enjoy a little fly fishing on the Purgatorie River inside the city limits of Trinidad in July 2016.

Angling enthusiasts far and wide should be delighted as Trinidad’s City Council unanimously approved moving forward with its “Fishing is Fun” grant contract with the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife at the Thursday, April 6, special meeting of council. 

A professional services agreement with “Fin Up” was also approved, as part of the contract, to move forward with enhancements to the fishing environment along the Purgatoire River.

Tara Marshall, the city’s director of development services, gave council members some background on the history of the project, with the grant application being filed in 2014.  

“The state has a special grant program called Fishing is Fun,” Marshall said. “The idea of the program is to create fishable river within city limits. We’re awaiting the contract from the state to execute for the funds for this program. The contract for the total project is $147,305. It has partners, with $25,000 from the Conservancy District, and $38,825 from the City of Trinidad. 

“This particular section of the river for this project is the Boulevard Addition. It goes very nicely with the other projects we have there, one being the pedestrian bridge, and one being the trails within the Boulevard Addition. This will allow for the river to be very fishable, because the fish will love it and want to be there and can be caught and released.” 

Boulders will be placed in the river at key points to create improved fishing habitats. 

Marshall said it was important that the contract be executed very quickly, because the gates to the river opened on April 1. That leaves a very small window of time to get the work done in the river. The conservancy district has already paid for the boulders now sitting in the Boulevard Addition, and she said the city would only have 10 days to 2.5 weeks in the river to get the work done. 

“We’re asking you to provide the mayor with permission tonight to execute the contract when it comes in tomorrow or Monday. We did receive word from Colorado Parks and Wildlife that the contract is now in their system and they’re expecting to send the grant any day.” 

Howard Lackey of Trout Unlimited thanked Marshall for all of the hard work she had put in to get the grant, adding that the state was looking at the entire length of the Purgatoire River as a prime area for a recreational corridor, with the river’s course through Trinidad being a prime focus. The Purgatoire Watershed Alliance was a key partner in improving recreational opportunities along the river, Lackey said.

“When we first started this project a number of years ago we were able to get two sections done, just to kind of prove that this is a viable fishery, and a recreation-oriented section of the river,” Lackey said. “With that, it has put Trinidad into a position that we’re eligible for a lot more funding in the future, to develop kayaking and hiking trails, with trails going all the way to the state park to hook in with their trails system, to really make this into a destination for tourists coming through. So they don’t have to go any further north, and they can do everything they want to do right here.” 

“Plus, it helps the water delivery system to the farmers down below. We’re still engaged in removing invasive species such as salt cedar, Russian olive and others. We’re still working on cleaning up the river and hauling trash out.” 

Lackey said the Fishing is Fun project would allow more people to use the river from a fisherman’s point of view, with the state stocking the river along with the local Trout Unlimited chapter. Fishermen could stop and fish for a few days before moving on to some of Colorado’s more crowded places. 

“As we do this, you’re going to find that more and more people will be using the river to do more and more things,” he said. “We’re talking about putting in an access point at the north end of the boulevard for folks who want to ride tubes, for kayakers and other things. The conservancy district is now talking about cleaning up the waterfall behind the Comcast building, clean the boulders out and make a nice pool, so that can be a terminus point for tubers and kayakers. We’ll have a nice corridor for wildlife, recreation and just general water improvement.” 

With Trinidad leading the way, there were now several other people upriver who were getting interested in cleaning up the river, because it increased their property values, made the water quality better and provided a lot of fun. He said the project started as a few people walking around picking up junk, but had been transformed into a major effort to make the Purgatoire River a better place to be. 

Mayor Phil Rico thanked Lackey and all of the other partners who were working to improve the river and make it more attractive for both locals and visitors.

Lackey said the river cleanup and improvements had shown the State of Colorado that the City would do what it said it was going to do, adding that that proven reliability put the City in a position to attract even more grant money going into the future, and at a reduced cost to the City. The local conservancy district was required by law to devote some money to river improvements, he said, and the new project was the first time the district had ever stepped up with money for a river improvement project. He said the City also had a responsibility to look after the river. 

“It’s a really good deal for the city and I’m glad everybody’s moving ahead with this thing, because it means making tremendous progress on projects that benefit everyone up and down the river,” Lackey said. 

The Professional Services Agreement to do the work along the river was awarded to “Fin Up,” which was the sole bidder for the contract. Pete Gallagher, who, Lackey said, had been the contractor on previous projects on the river, owns Fin Up. 

Marshall said the contract with Fin Up was one part of the overall $147,305 cost of the project.

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