Work continues on Flight of the Eagles project

By Tamie Meck


Plans for a multi-million-dollar outdoor recreation and education project at Paonia Junior-Senior High School is on hold for the foreseeable future, but volunteers dedicated to making the idea reality still have plenty of work to do.

The Flight of the Eagle Project (FOTEP) committee will continue to do what it can to provide outdoor opportunities and to honor donors who participated in the "Buy a Brick" campaign. The FOTEP committee originally planned to install plaques along the Flight of the Eagle walkway, which was part of Phase I construction and would lead the way to the combination football, soccer and track facility.

That may happen one day, said committee member Cindy Swartzendruber, but for now, the plan is to install the memorial bricks in a wall located near the main entrance to the high school. The plan is to designate one area to individual donors, and another to those honoring families. Placement will be determined by a lottery system.

Since some of the people being honored have passed away and weren't buried in a cemetery, a few of the bricks are the only memorial marker for them, said Swartzendruber.

The hope is to one day have the wall extend around the north side of the school and to the area originally designated for the Flight of the Eagle walkway. It's a starting place and something they can build on, said Swartzendruber.

When bricks were originally purchased in 2014, donors were promised that if by the end of 2016 the walkway wasn't started, they could have a refund, said Swartzendruber. The FOTEP committee sent a letter in April offering a full refund, and only two accepted. They did so not because they didn't want to participate, but because of recent changes in their life circumstances.

The FOTEP is no longer doing fundraisers, but bricks can still be purchased. Those purchased by late June will be included in the first phase of the wall. Construction will begin after the July 4 weekend. Potential donors can visit flightoftheeagleproject.com, and donate under the "Support Us" icon, or contact a FOTEP committee member. Donations are welcome any time, and are tax deductible, said Swartzendruber.

FOTEP received a grant to create a master plan in 2012. The plan includes an amphitheater, trails and exercise stations, a football and soccer field and a baseball facility and other amenities. While Phase I calls for construction of a running track, that's not going to happen in these tough economic times, said Swartzendruber.

Through other fundraising efforts, including the Cow Pie Bingo contest held as part of last year's Cherry Days festivities, improvements have been made, including a long jump/triple jump pit, purchase of a high jump pit, and improvements to the dirt track on the north field. Because the track teams travel to Hotchkiss to practice, the committee decided to go forward with improvements in order to allow as many athletes as possible to practice at home and to keep them off the highway. "We've done that," said Swartzendruber. Today, only a few athletes make the commune.

They also have plans to improve the play area for junior high students. A sand volleyball pit and basketball court are in place, and efforts to keep the area weed-free are on-going.

Exercise equipment similar to the workout circuit equipment at Apple Valley Park has been ordered and is expected to installed early this summer. The facilities, said Swartzendruber, isn't just good for the school; it's also open to the public.