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Recreation area to be built this fall

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Photo by Tamie Meck Flight of the Eagle Project committee chairperson Cindy Swartzendruber points to the area on the grounds of Paonia Junior/Senior High School where a recreation area will be built this fall. Despite a lack of big donors, fundraising eff

The Flight of the Eagle Project committee is a long way from realizing its years-long dream of a sports facility at Paonia Junior/Senior High School, but members are continuing fundraising and public awareness campaigns, and working to make the best of their situation.

Fundraising efforts, including an ongoing Buy a Brick campaign, a crowdfundiing campaign, and several small efforts have amounted to $70,000 in the bank, of which half is earmarked for the Flight of the Eagle walkway honoring those who contributed to Buy a Brick.

The reality, said committee chair Cindy Swartzendruber, is that a lack of funds means there are no big projects on the horizon. However, concerted efforts that began in back in 2011 put a master plan in place at a cost of $100,000, and paid for the creation of construction documents for Phase I, which includes a multi-lane, all-weather track. When built out, the project will include baseball and football/soccer fields, grandstand seating, a state-of-the-art outdoor amphitheater, trails and exercise stations, and will be available to the public and ADA accessible.

The cost of breaking ground on the track is estimated at $100,000.

But raising the funds hasn't been easy. "We are disappointed that people don't see the vision that we do," said Swartzendruber.

At the same time, the committee is very proud of what they have accomplished. At a recent meeting, committee members decided that rather than wait for that one big supporter to step up, they will do something positive with the money they do have available, beginning with construction of a junior high recreation area.

Junior high students have contributed a great deal to the project, said committee member Beverly Wilmore, including contribution of volunteer hours and donations from concession stand operations, including money raised at the BMW Rally in July. Those efforts were led by PJSHS teacher Ellie Roberts.

The area slated for improvements lies mainly at the southwest corner of the school. In 2011, a concrete four-square slab was poured and a sand volleyball pit was installed northwest of the school and on the north side of the existing practice field. Because they were unable to develop the area around it, the facility has gone unused and is in a state of neglect. The plan is to construct a climbing wall and slack line and other amenities to reflect today's recreational interests, add more sod, increase the size of the concrete slab and add basketball hoops, and include an area for socializing. Trees will be planted and a bench memorializing a deceased PHS student, for which a private donation has already been received, will be erected.

The entire area will be designed for easy, low-cost maintenance, said Swartzendruber. While construction calls for moving the planned tennis courts a few feet to the north, it doesn't affect the master plan, said Swartzendruber.

At a recent committee meeting it was suggested that money be used to grade a track around the existing practice field on the northwest corner of the property, but the infrastructure, including water and proper drainage, isn't in place. The project also would not meet the designs of the master plan and eventually have to be torn out, said Wilmore. "It would be easy to do something temporary, but we don't want to alter the master plan." This project is a way for the committee to recognize and show support for three years of concerted efforts. "And it's something that we can complete and use right away."

Clean-up efforts on the school's 17-acre site are planned for September and interested parties can contact committee members at fotepphs@gmail.com.

The committee met recently with PJSHS school administration and Delta County School District representatives to present the proposal and request that more care and attention be given to the entire school grounds. Swartzendruber said that administration expressed both support and an interest in joining in the effort.

The committee will continue its fundraising efforts. FOTEP is sponsoring two events at the Mountain Harvest Festival, including Cow Pie Bingo. on Sept. 26 and the 5K run, walk and stroll on Sept. 27. Visit www.mountainharvestfestival.org for details.

The Flight of the Eagle Walkway project is scheduled for construction in 2016. Prior to construction, all 136 donors will receive a copy of the final proposal for approval. For more information, or to make a donation, visit flightoftheeagleproject.com.

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