The Paonia River Park Restoration Project is one of those successful endeavors that shows dramatic differences between "before and after."
In this case, the before was a former instream mining operation which locals wanted to turn into a river park.
Before restoration there were several braided river channels with no primary water course, erosion problems, severely compromised aquatic habitat and disconnection from the floodplain.
The after picture couldn't be more pronounced. There is now a single-thread river channel, reconnection with the floodplain, new vegetation to control erosion and improved aquatic habitat over eight acres along the North Fork River. A large herd of elk was seen recently enjoying the improvements.
On March 14, the principals of the project, volunteers and folks just happy to see the project completed gathered for a celebration at the park which included a tour along the river.
Sarah Sauter, executive director of the Western Slope Conservation Center, started things off. "[We're] really proud of this project," she said. "We started a really great partnership with Minnesota Canal and Reservoir Company, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Delta Conservation District and with funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. We brought together a number of partners to create a project that is a win-win-win scenario."
Sauter noted it took six to seven years to pull together the funding that was needed for the restoration project.
Jeff Crane of Crane Associates was involved since the project's inception. In 1997, the North Fork River Improvement Association went to United Sand and Gravel with a plan to make improvements. "They were really receptive," Crane said. "They quit mining in the river." Crane was very surprised. A few years later, Crane suggested to United that a river park would be a great use of the area. United agreed and donated 19 acres for the project. "Over the years we have been doing little things to get this to a public park. It's taken a lot of money and a lot of effort by a lot of volunteers," he said.
Willy Kistler, president of the Minnesota Canal and Reservoir Company, said, "In this day and age it's pretty fashionable to bash and mistrust the federal government. In this case, they are the hub of the wheel. Without the money that they pledged to us to improve our irrigation water delivery system, we wouldn't have had funds to be able to offer up to the river park to see this all happen." He concluded, "We're proud as a ditch company to be able to make a contribution this close to home."
The restoration project is being called "a model example of how habitat mitigation funds can be used locally, keeping both the improvements and funding within the community."blog comments powered by Disqus