It's more than a decade-long vision, but the dream of constructing a sports and outdoor education facility at Paonia Junior/Senior High School is one step closer to reality.
Last Wednesday, the project's citizen planning committee, along with representatives of Design Concepts, presented the preliminary master plan for the project to the public.
The master plan is "more than just a pretty picture," said Shanen Weber of Design Concepts, the community and landscape architectural firm in Lafayette hired to complete the master plan. "It is a really important document to have."
The school board gave its OK to the preliminary plan at its May 23 meeting, said Randall Palmer, PHS/PJHS principal. "That's a huge thing for us to hear."
Now the committee can begin the planning and construction cost phase of the project in preparation for fundraising and grant applications.
Focal points include a baseball field with dugout and bleacher space, and a north-south oriented football/soccer field with visitor seating and a home grandstand with seating for 400. One nice feature, noted Weber, is that P-Hill can be seen from the fields.
The track will be a six-lane "broken-back" design, with a possible eight-lane straightaway. Also known as a double-bend track, it is a standard 400-meter track, but with wider curves and a wider infield to accommodate soccer or lacrosse. It will include long jump and triple jump pits, and a shot put/discus throwing area.
Once complete, the entire facility will include more than 350 parking spaces. A three-bay bus barn is planned for the area north of the football field.
A "natural play area" between the fields would use features such as boulders and logs wherever possible, said Weber. The idea is to make it "unique, multi-generational."
The area adjacent to the junior high school and the existing practice field includes outdoor volleyball, tennis and basketball courts, an outdoor classroom, shelters and picnic areas, and a play pad for games like hopscotch.
The area between the schools and the North Fork River will include trails, fitness stations, and an outdoor classroom. The entry will include a pond and educational components.
A trail system complete with distance markers, exercise/fitness stations and educational /social niches winds throughout the 17-acre site. Trail access points are designed to connect with the Paonia River Park and possible future trail systems, including the proposed Riverbank Neighborhood development directly to the south of the property.
Weber urged public comment from the audience before the plan becomes final. "You don't want to have to go back and put in something you didn't think of," she said.
Elaine Brett, who is spearheading the North Fork Valley Heart & Soul Project, a two-year, grant-funded community study, reminded planners that edible landscaping would be a valuable feature, and urged them to include garden space where students can learn more about the agricultural heritage of the area. She praised planners for addressing "common community values," including maintaining a small-town feel and sense of community, and for recognizing local heritages. "The plan nailed at least three-quarters of what we're seeing as important values to this community," said Brett.
There are still details to work out, including wildlife mitigation and fencing issues and water drainage. Most of the issues are very manageable, said Weber. For example, curb-and-gutter for the new parking area between the school and the ball parks has not been drawn into the plan. And the shot put-discus throwing area is too close to the jumping pits and could create a safety hazard.
The final master plan will be presented to the public at an open house on July 19. The planning committee will now work to break down the project into phases and start prioritizing in order to apply for funding, said committee chairperson Cindy Swartzendruber. The committee is looking into some of the big funding organizations whose visions are in line with those of the committee. Great Outdoors Colorado, which awarded the $75,000 planning grant, will accept construction grant applications in August.
But the first priority in funding is to find matching funds. "The truth is, we need money. We need matching funds," said Swartzendruber. The committee hopes to raise $60,000 in cash and in-kind donations by August, which would make the project eligible for a $300,000 GOCO construction grant.
One fundraising possibility is built into the plan, said Swartzendruber. A walkway between the two fields, called "Flight of the Eagle," will include areas where donors can purchase etched bricks, that will be installed in a wall or pathway which will be placed in a highly visible location. Alumni and classes, families, organizations and businesses could participate in a buy-a-brick campaign to help garner grants. The size of the brick or boulder would depend on the size of the donation. A campaign is expected to kick off in time for the July 4 parade.
"Once we get the community involved, it will become a reality," said Swartzendruber.blog comments powered by Disqus