The Paonia River Park Restoration Project, coordinated by the Western Slope Conservation Center and completed this winter, rehabilitated the river channel and restored aquatic habitat along a half mile of the North Fork of the Gunnison River at the Paonia River Park.
The River Park, located near the entrance to the town of Paonia off of Grand Avenue, was once an in-stream gravel pit and is currently the only public river access point in 30 miles of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.
The restoration is a major hallmark for North Fork River improvement and a major stepping stone in the transformation of a former in-stream gravel pit into a healthy aquatic ecosystem and accessible public park.
Prior to the restoration, the river through the River Park was disconnected from the rest of the North Fork River and its aquatic habitat was severely compromised. Years of gravel excavation in the river bed caused extreme erosion and head cutting and diverted the river into several braided channels with no primary watercourse. The presence of wildlife waned, and the river was largely unwelcoming to anglers, boaters, swimmers and other recreationists.
The restoration project restored the river to a single meandering channel. Aquatic habitat was improved along the river banks, thousands of willows were planted, fish retention pools were installed, and the floodplain was rehabilitated with new vegetation to control flood erosion. The park is more welcoming than ever to wildlife and human visitors.
The project was made possible by habitat mitigation funds from the Bureau of Reclamation's (BoR) Minnesota Ditch Project, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Delta Conservation District. BoR funded the project to offset habitat loss along the newly piped Minnesota Ditch near Paonia. This is a model example of how habitat mitigation funds can be used locally, keeping both the improvements and funding within the community.
This achievement falls on the heels of another exciting development for the River Park — the award of a $10,000 grant from the Union Pacific Foundation last month to fund landscaping at the park this fall.
The public is invited to join the celebration on Thursday, March 14, at 2 p.m. at the Paonia River Park. Please call Joanna Calabrese, River Park coordinator, at 527-5307 ext. 204 to RSVP or for more information.blog comments powered by Disqus