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Rec district, baseball group join forces to build ballfields

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After many years, the North Fork Pool, Park and Recreation District is moving forward on its next phase to bring more recreational opportunities to the valley, this time in the form of new baseball and softball fields.

"We have partnered with Hotchkiss Home Plate to continue our master plan of building baseball fields at the Crossroads property," said Lenore Cambria, the district administrator of the NFPPRD. The two organizations have committed to building two baseball fields and two softball fields on the property near the pool and the soccer fields.

Hotchkiss Home Plate sees an average of 90-100 kids each season, said association president Terry Pagone. That many kids results in an over-utilization of the current available fields, Cambria added. Some kids practice at the Hotchkiss K8 field; some share the high school baseball field with the high school ball players; and others have to practice on the dirt field behind the arena at the county fairgrounds, a field not-so-affectionately called the Dust Bowl. Hotchkiss Home Plate and the NFPPRD are juggling multiple age divisions of ball players, as well as trying to juggle both baseball and softball games, which requires separate fields due to different requirements for field dimensions. "We can't just put softball kids on baseball fields, or baseball kids on softball fields," Cambria said. "So our goal is to build several fields all in one place." This way, families watching multi-age ball players don't have to travel between fields, and it will alleviate some of the safety concerns of kids crossing the highway as they leave school and head to the fairgrounds field for practice.

Cambria attended the recent Rural Philanthropy Days in Montrose, where she spoke to many grantors. She said she received good feedback from several, who are ready to come on board to fund the project -- if she can get DOLA on board. She said the district plans to apply for DOLA funding this fall. They're asking for $350,000, and they already have matching funds secured. A big chunk of the funds and the in-kind match came from the Hotchkiss Home Plate group, which rounded up volunteers and funds. "Right now, we're working really hard to get things ready for that grant," she said.

NFPPRD has also met with the Board of County Commissioners to discuss widening the road between the parking lot and the pool, to better accommodate the anticipated increase in traffic once the fields are ready. Cambria said those discussions are going well. The organization is also working with the Town of Hotchkiss; the town has agreed to write a letter of support for the DOLA application. Cambria asked if the town would be willing to lend in-kind support as well; those conversations will continue as the grant process and the field construction progresses. The town also gave them the go-ahead to run water lines in between their two existing water taps to install a drinking fountain near the concession stands and restrooms.

"We feel like we have good impetus and momentum behind us with Hotchkiss Home Plate stepping up and getting involved," Cambria said. Right now, the two organizations are working with an engineer to get detailed drawings of the fields. They'll put the project out for bid after that, to help them better approximate construction costs. The board of the rec district also plans to reach back out to the community to gather input on future development. "Because this has been in the works for so long, we still need to get lots of public input," Cambria said. "In the DOLA grant, we have to show that we've asked the public if they still want this." A survey specific to the baseball fields is online at the district's website, at www.NorthForkRecreation.com.

The construction of the fields is the first phase of this project, and both NFPPRD and Hotchkiss Home Plate are looking forward to what can be accomplished in subsequent phases. "We're going to get some stuff rolling here," Pagone said. If awarded the grant, construction will start in early spring 2018.

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Baseball, North Fork Pool, softball
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