An eye-catching sign depicting Paonia and its bountiful harvest and beautiful views is finding new life, thanks to a few volunteers, a tractor, and a little bit of community service.
This summer, Crawford resident and Rotary Club of the North Fork member Jeff Skeels decided to check out a hand-painted sign hanging sloppily near the road along Highway 133 near Paonia. Located on private property just above Paonia High School the sign welcomes passers-by to take the next right into Paonia. It's also dated 1991 and signed by former Paonia resident, artist and herbalist Paula Lawley.
Sometime in the last few years it became partially detached and was hanging lopsided from its support system. Skeels saw it as a good service project. With Cherry Days approaching, he set a goal of having it up before July 4. He got permission to enter the property and fix the sign, and a relative attempted a temporary fix, but that only lasted a couple of weeks.
Skeels put up $250 up for hardware and materials to stabilize the sign and pitched it at a weekly Rotary meeting. Rotarian John Coombs of Ollie's Ice Cream matched it.
Skeels got the necessary hardware at Dependable Lumber and he and a friend from Wisconsin prepared it for hanging. But when they tried to hoist it up, it was too heavy.
Cousin Steve Allyn, Brian Maul and Shannon Richardson all joined in, and it was still too heavy, said Skeels. Allyn went home and got his tractor to do the lifting, and less than a week before Cherry Days, it was back up where it belonged. A patch of vegetation growing below the highway was also removed, allowing a full view of the colorful sign.
That is just phase one of the project, said Skeels. The sign needs to be preserved, and the paint either touched up or re-done. Because everyone volunteered their time and resources, the budget for phase one of the project was $80. That leaves $420 to allocate toward paint, said Skeels.
Delta County Joint School District #50, and its special counsel, Jon Olafson, have responded to the complaint filed by Cidney Fisk, a 2016 Delta High School graduate. Fisk has filed suit in federal court, accusing DHS teachers, guidance counselors, administrators and school district leadership of retaliation after she spoke out against religious activities during school hours on school property.