At a March 20 public meeting, I spoke with county commissioners about $480,000 of lottery funds being held in the county's Conservation Trust Fund account. I asked that the commissioners consider the creation of a community commission to help strategize the use of those funds.
The commissioners defended "banking" the funds in preparation for the building of public trails and boat ramps in the area.
Here's a brief transcript of recorded comments made by administrator Robbie LeValley:
"There's been a conscience effort in the past two years to save some of that money for the result of the recreation master trails plan because of the cost of the projects that will come in with that master plan process. We know that the results of that recreation (trails) master plan will identify huge projects as well as significant dollars.
"Then, in addition, Commissioner Atchley has been very aggressive about finding a boat ramp area that would be west of Delta.
"Specific to the fairgrounds (and the long-proposed boat ramp), we (and Western Slope Conservation Center) got turned down twice for GOCO funding for that program. (My question: Why is a GOCO grant needed when the county already has existing lottery funds?)
"Then comes the GOCO Inspire Connection Grant which talks about a suspension bridge or pedestrian bridge of some type and the pedestrian bridge we've been looking at, maybe it's a suspension bridge, we don't know exactly where that would be located so we needed to determine if and where that would be located before going forward with the boat ramp.
"The Fairgrounds Utilization Committee met just last month, and the Western Slope Conservation Center is taking the lead on that (the boat ramp project) at that meeting. Commissioner Roeber reiterated that Delta County would help out with that effort but we did want to see where that pedestrian bridge would go just so that we have coordination with all the infrastructure that's trying to go in a pretty small area based on the fact that private land is on either side of the fairgrounds."
As a follow-up to my discussion with the commissioners, I researched the 2010 Fairgrounds Master Plan, which is the guiding document for the Fairgrounds Utilization Committee. Much of the "banked" lottery funds in question have been used at the fairgrounds; however, little progress has been made on the Fairgrounds Master Plan projects, themselves.
The Maloney property, for example, was purchased around 2009 using lottery funds but sits virtually undeveloped while the highly used baseball fields were removed from the fairgrounds.
Again, I implore the county commissioners to develop a cohesive strategy for recreation in the county, as there really doesn't seem to be one.