by Caleb Stento
On Friday, May 11, at 2 p.m. the culmination of years of work finally arrived. The City of Ouray and the United States Forest Service signed papers that finalized Ouray’s purchase of the patch of land in the Uncompahgre National Forest that makes up over 20 acres of the Ice Park.
If the wind hadn’t been howling outside the office of Jeanne Boots at Land Title Gaurantee Company in Ridgway, the collective sigh of relief of those gathered would have been audible throughout most of Ouray County.
On hand for the USFS were Forester James P. Dunn and member of Lands and Mineral Staff Liz Mauch. For the city, Mayor Bob Risch, City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli and Community Development Coordinator Ann Morgenthaler were in attendance. Everyone in the room was exuberant.
“The Forest Service is very happy that this has come to a conclusion and the city can now manage the property,” Dunn said. Dunn has been working on this project for just over seven years.
After signing the papers, everyone at the table reminisced about their tour of duty on the Ice Park deal. They also recognized the many individuals and organizations who gave of their time and effort along the way.
Risch, who has been involved since 1998, said, “We very much appreciate closing the deal. I’m glad we hung in there. There were a lot of ups and downs. “
Rondinelli, who has about eight years on the job as city administrator, definitely feels good about closing the deal. ”I remember my first day on the job. Pam (Larson then mayor of Ouray) came down and said ‘Here are your tasks: the water tank and the Ice Park',” Rondinelli said. For him, “This is a big year!”
Rondinelli commented that details haven’t been discussed, but there is a shared long-term goal by the city and non-profit organization Ouray Ice Park, Inc., to improve and grow the park facility.
“There is a lot of interest to explore expanding the use,” said OIPI board member Mike McLeod. “We’d like to explore opportunities to broaden the audience of the resource.“ For now, he said, “We are really excited to know that the long term security of the Ice Park is secure with the city running it.”
McLeod went on to say that it would be great to expand the climbing terrain where it makes sense and is practical, but it’s important to look at the long term management of the park and where it fits in with the city’s master plan.
“When you think about the shared resources in this town — the pool, box canyon and Rotary Park — we’ve got some real gems in this town,” McLeod stated.
Now, we can add one more gem to round out that list of resources that would be impressive for any town, let alone one with a population of 800.