For Robin Herring, the Northwest Colorado Chapter of Parrotheads quartermaster, a project to widen a river access ramp today at Loudy-Simpson Park means more than just surface level improvements.
For Herring, it means honoring the memory of a fellow coal miner and friend Joe Koonce.
The project will be named after Koonce, once an avid kayaker, who was killed in a mining accident at Trapper Mine about 10 years ago, Herring said.
Upgrades to the ramp are the end result of 10 years of community planning to honor the late river lover.
It will ideally provide boaters, rafters and kayakers with safer and easier access to the Yampa River, Herring said.
The current ramp, Herring said, is more oriented to canoe access and is too narrow and covered in underbrush.
Improvements to the current access point will include a wider gravel ramp to allow boat trailers to launch boats into the river and the clearing of underbrush and trees making access safer.
The project started Friday afternoon and will continue through today.
Mimi Chaillot, Koonce’s ex-wife, said, “Joe would be thrilled and proud about this.”
And although the project is in memory of a lost friend, Chaillot said it is not a sad time for those involved.
She contends Koonce would have said, “Drink a beer for me.”
“We are really proud to do this and have it named after Joe,” Chaillot said. “He was a staunch advocate of preserving the river, loving the river, and he would be very proud to see that something is going on here in Craig for all the river lovers.”
The project is being funded by donations from companies like Trapper Mining Co. and Anson Excavating & Pipe, among others.
The take out ramp is the only one in the park. Other take-outs on the Yampa River include South Beach, which is about five miles downstream, and Pebble Beach, which is about three miles upstream.
The Parrotheads, a group that has the motto, “Party with a purpose,” is improving the ramp as one of its many community-betterment projects, Herring said.
The Northwest Colorado Chapter of Parrotheads was formed in 2008 and has about 100 members.
“We are dedicated to community projects and charity work,” Herring said.
The Parrotheads chapter also is involved with the music programs of various area schools and gives out music scholarships.
The Northwest Colorado Chapter is one of about 240 chapters affiliated with the national organization called “Parrotheads in Paradise.”
The group is seeking volunteers to assist with the ramp project.
To get involved with the Parrotheads, or to help with the Loudy-Simpson ramp project, call Herring at 629-2494.