The community's need for more trails will be eased this summer with the help of a grant the Western Slope Conservation Center (Conservation Center) received from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission. The $137,000 grant will fund the construction of two loop trails at Paonia River Park, a former in-stream gravel mine the Conservation Center has restored into a healthy riparian area and community park.
Paonia River Park is the only developed public access point along the North Fork of the Gunnison River. The Conservation Center and other community partners have worked hard to make it a safe and enjoyable place for everyone to visit. To date, Paonia River Park represents an investment of thousands of volunteer hours and over $850,000 from grants and private donations.
"This past summer, the Conservation Center was able to improve the trail from the ADA compliant ramp to Minnesota Creek. With this grant, we will be able to complete the trail system at the Paonia River Park," said Julia Bowman, Paonia River Park coordinator.
Alex Johnson, executive director of the Conservation Center, is thrilled to share the news with the local community. "This is the culmination of over a decade of community effort to transform an in-stream gravel mine into a fantastic public river park," said Johnson.
Currently, the Conservation Center is building an ADA-compliant ramp and an educational signage system at Paonia River Park. The ramp will be completed this spring and the signs will be installed in the fall. The Conservation Center hosts various community volunteer days and events at Paonia River Park throughout the spring, summer and fall.
The Conservation Center submitted the grant proposal at the beginning of November last year with the support from the Town of Paonia, United Companies, the Western Colorado Conservation Corps and key community members.
"We are thankful that the Paonia River Park has such extensive community support," said Bowman. "We have worked hard to make the Paonia River Park safe and accessible for everyone."
The Conservation Center is based in Paonia with a mission to build an active and aware community to protect and enhance the lands, air, water, and wildlife of the Lower Gunnison Watershed.