Keyword Site Search

USA Vinyl
Custom Canopies Performance Planning Sys.
Illusions Vinyl Fence Rainwater Collection
Spectra Lighting Fiberweb
Barenbrug USA ILOS
Sun Ports Solus Decor

Centennial Park:
"Embracing the past, shaking hands with the future"

By Shanen Weber, RLA, Design Concepts

Once an overgrown flood plain, this site is now award-winning Centennial Park in Rifle, Colorado. Two colorful circular splash pads (Water Odyssey) combine passive with active water play. The metal halide floodlights in the background illuminate the stage/amphitheater/ sundial area.

A Rifle, Colo. site once considered an overgrown flood plain has been transformed into the award-winning Centennial Park. It welcomes visitors from around the region and beyond with attractive public gathering spaces, recreation opportunities and a unique cultural-history trail that is a source of pride and identity for the community. The 14-acre linear park stretches for six blocks along Rifle Creek in the heart of the city, connecting the historic downtown on the south end to the county fairgrounds on the north end. Phase I of the park, which opened in September 2010, features a "walk through time" along the creek, with interpretive areas that highlight the city's rich ranching, farming and mining history, natural environment and cultural diversity.

A multilevel meandering creek with boulders has an irrigation head gate (controlled by the standing girl with her hand on the wheel), and a miniature Parshall flume (not seen at this angle) incorporated to reference Rifle's agricultural past. Note: The Parshall flume is a special-shaped open flow channel invented by Ralph Parshall in 1922 to measure the flow rate of irrigation.

Collaborative Commitment
Centennial Park offers an excellent example of a community overcoming economic hardship to provide a downtown park and trails that have improved the quality of life for residents. For decades Rifle was impacted by the region's "boom and bust" energy economy, which affected its ability to fund park development and improvements. This changed in 2005, when the city took over a failing recreation district and passed a one percent sales tax dedicated to parks and recreation. The tax, known locally as "a penny working for you," allowed the city, partnering with state and county agencies, to build Centennial Park. City officials intended the park to provide amenities for Rifle residents, but also to help attract I-70 travelers to Rifle's downtown businesses and state parks.

A rustic gateway structure of buff flagstone welcomes visitors to the core of the park and explains the historical events that occurred during the bustling 1905 decade in Rifle, Colorado. Similar gateways were designed at other prominent entries/exits of the park, each reflecting a historic decade.

Design Concepts began working on the master plan in January 2005, the year Rifle celebrated its centennial. The site was undeveloped, except for an existing creek trail. Working with the community, the firm created a master plan, which was instrumental in helping pass the one percent sales tax in November 2005. Using sales-tax revenues, the city contributed $2 million and obtained $1.5 million in grants, including a $750,000 regional park grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (COGO), $500,000 from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, and $200,000 from Garfield County.

Six bridges cross Rifle Creek, connecting the park to neighborhoods, schools, the downtown and trails. Across each bridge you enter a historic decade announced by buff flagstone columns with red flagstone caps and red flagstone year markers. Collapsible steel bridge railings prevent damming of rising waters during flash floods. A new berm along the creek keeps stormwater from flooding neighboring back yards.

State voters passed GOCO in 1992. GOCO receives 50 percent of the proceeds from the Colorado Lottery, its only source of funding. That funding "preserve, protect, and enhance Colorado's wildlife, parks, rivers, trails and open spaces." Since it began awarding grants in 1994, GOCO has awarded nearly $690 million for more than 3,000 projects throughout the state. Note: The remainder of lottery proceeds is divided between the Conservation Trust Fund and Colorado State Parks.

ECI Site Construction Management of Loveland, Colo. built Centennial Park. The $3.5 million project employed local subcontractors, creating jobs and stimulating the area's economy.

At the center of the park is a large functional sundial with Rifle, Colorado's longitude and latitude sandblasted into the colored concrete base. The top strip of the gnomon and centerpiece are stainless steel. The body of the gnomon is a self-weathering steel plate. The sundial was designed at a height to allow for seating near the amphitheater. The sundial includes both standard and daylight savings time. The amphitheater and stage host such events as Rifle's summer concert series.

Strolling through History
The focus of the park is the historic timeline, which includes four wayside displays that represent Rifle's history by decades, from its pioneer days in 1895 to 1935. The waysides offer seating, shade, and interpretive signs that illustrate key events in the city's and the world's history. The timeline has engaged park visitors of all ages. During the opening celebration, for example, teenagers gathered at one wayside to point out where they lived on a grid of the city.

The buff flagstone Wayside 1 (1895-1905) marker includes the story of the1902 fire that destroyed much of Rifle's downtown business district. Red flagstone is the seating here.

Another popular feature is the Great Bowl, a large oval green designed for informal games, festivals and community events. Also woven into the creek trail corridor are an amphitheater, a sprayground, three gateways, picnic shelters and trails. Art is evident throughout the park in elements such as a supersized sundial. Pathways and stone wayside signage are embedded with sandblasted quotes about Rifle's history, images of the sun and moon, clock designs and metal cogs. In the sprayground are hydraulic devices, such as an irrigation head gate, referencing Rifle's agricultural history The park also provides open space and passive recreation opportunities for neighbors and safe pedestrian connections over the creek to Rifle Middle School, downtown and other city parks. New municipal infrastructure at the park includes pedestrian bridges, parking lots, an irrigation pump station and a dam on Rifle Creek.

Rough-cut cedar timbers, hardware, lighting and cart tracks at Wayside 3 (1915-1925) recall the vanadium mining days.

Creekside Sustainability
The success of Centennial Park belies some challenges along the way. One challenge was designing the park, which is located in a flood plain, to accommodate occasional floodwaters and seasonal high flows from the creek. We had to ensure that bridges and other infrastructure could withstand flooding and be cleaned up quickly and maintained efficiently. We commissioned several flood analysis studies, and based on the results, located the pump house, shelters, seat walls, and interpretive signs and structures above the potential high-water mark so that flood waters could flow through the park without damming the creek with debris. We also relied on an environmental assessment of the site to ensure our master plan design protected Rifle Creek and its surrounding wetlands, native areas, and animal habitat.

A $40,000 Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative grant paid for most of the $57,000 cost of installing 11 off-grid solar-powered LEDs for the creek paths. Atop each 15-foot steel pole is a solar panel and battery pack.

In August 2009 the park design was tested, half-way through construction, when Rifle Creek overflowed its banks and flooded the park to a depth of over three feet following a sudden thunderstorm upstream. The site was cleared of tree and plant debris within two days, leaving no significant structural damage. The park design handled the stormwater with devices such as a trench drain in the sunken amphitheater that returns water to the creek, tree selections like willow and cottonwood that can tolerate wet conditions, and bridge rails that collapse with water surges. A new berm along the edge of the park kept the stormwater from flooding the back yards of neighboring homes.

Wayside 4 (1925-1935), by the "Green Bowl" and on the edge of
Rifle Creek, explains work done by the Civilian Conservation Corp in Rifle.

A $40,000 Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative grant paid for most of the $57,000 cost of installing 11 off-grid solar-powered light poles that illuminate the creek paths. The 15-foot steel poles have a solar panel, a battery pack and the lighting fixture mounted well above floodwaters. The solar panels charge the battery during the day. The freestanding lights gave park designers more flexibility in deciding where to locate lighting without worrying about the costs of extending an electrical conduit to each pole. The downlights use LED bulbs, which require less electricity and are expected to last 15 years.

Wayside 2 (1905-1915) is designed for the visitor to visualize the layout of Rifle's town grid, the streets, landmarks and buildings. The grid is rendered in red flagstone, and polished black granite blocks for landmarks. A 'Golden Rain' (Koelreuteria paniculatatree) shows off its colors behind the grid.

Recognition for Centennial Park
"Centennial Park has been a great addition to the community," said Aleks Briedis, recreation director for the city of Rifle, who describes it as "a park that will be enjoyed by generations to come." He said the park has been a great success as a gathering place for special events like the summer concert series at the new amphitheater, which typically draws hundreds of Rifle residents and visitors.

Among the many accolades for Centennial Park are awards from several statewide organizations, including a Merit Design Award from the Colorado chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. The park won a Starburst Award from the Colorado Lottery for its vision, size and scope, and collaborative funding partners, and for its connectivity to downtown Rifle and other parks.

The Colorado Parks and Recreation Association selected Centennial Park as a Columbine Award Winner, noting the park has attracted residents and visitors, increased residents' sense of place and pride, and encouraged community interaction. The Governor's Award for Downtown Excellence and Downtown Colorado, Inc. chose Centennial as the state's "Best Downtown Park" for its "great public space," adding it was "an excellent example of a community pooling its vision and resources to create something memorable."

Design Concepts has created construction documents for Phase II of the park, which will include a playground, a wetlands boardwalk, waysides for 1935 through 2005, and additional picnic shelters, parking, bridges and permanent restrooms. The firm also has completed a master plan for the playground. As it continues to develop, Centennial Park will focus on celebrating Rifle's history, culture, and environment to link the community with its past, present, and future.

Editor's note: Shanen Weber, RLA, a principal at Design Concepts, CLA, Inc. since 2009, is principal in charge of design and planning for Centennial Park.

Founded in 1981, Design Concepts CLA, Inc. is a community and landscape architecture firm that focuses on master planning and design for parks, communities, and school and university campuses throughout the Rocky Mountain region. For more information visit


Project Team

  • Owner: Aleks Briedis
  • City of Rifle, Colo.
  • Landscape Architects
    Design Concepts CLA, Inc.,
    Lafayette, Colo.
    Shanen Weber, Principal
    Mark Ballock, Project Landscape Designer
  • Civil/Structural Engineer
    Schmueser Gordon Meyer, SGM
    Glenwood Springs, Colo.
  • Construction Management
    CI Site Construction Management, Loveland, Colo.
  • Electrical Engineer
    The RMH Group
    Lakewood, Colo.
  • Geotechnical Engineer
    CTL Thompson
    Glenwood Springs, Colo.
  • Landscaping
    Valley Crest Landscape, Parker, Colo.
  • Surveyor
    Bookcliff Surveying Services
    Rifle, Colo.


  • Masonry: Heritage Masonry
  • Sandblasting: Hanna Sandblasting
  • Shelters: Poligon
  • Signage: Micro-Plastics
  • Site Furnishing: Keystone Ridge Designs
  • Light Poles/LEDs: BetaLED
  • Solar Panels: Carmanah Technologies Corp.
  • Lighting:Carmanah Technologies Corp.
  • Stone/Sandblasting: Pine's Stone Co.
  • Water Play-Water Odyssey

Related Stories

November 12, 2019, 4:16 pm PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy