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Float, festival get folks on river

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Photo by Ben Lehman Floating down the North Fork of the Gunnison provided picturesque views for participants.

In Hawaiian shirts and leis, nearly 130 people floated down the North Fork of the Gunnison River during the Western Slope Conservation Center's 16th annual River Float and Festival on Saturday, June 4. Floaters travelled from the Paonia River Park to the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss. This longstanding Conservation Center tradition provides a unique opportunity for community members to float down the river while learning about its history and river conservation efforts. All proceeds from the event go toward the Conservation Center's mission to protect the North Fork watershed.

Ben Lehman, a float attendee, said, "One cannot pass up a chance to see the North Fork Valley from the river's own perspective. We are fortunate to have the float and fest year after year!"

After the float, floaters returned to the Paonia River Park for its inaugural River Festival. The Conservation Center celebrated the North Fork River and the Paonia River Park, a former instream gravel mine, with live music from local bands, vendor booths, a silent auction, games, and lunch provided by Delicious Orchards.

"It was a great opportunity to highlight the work we have accomplished at the Paonia River Park," said Alyssa Clarida, Paonia River Park coordinator. "Among the developments worth celebrating was the new ADA compliant ramp, built by local welder Ira Houseweart, which has improved access to the North Fork itself."

Thanks to event sponsors: Ride the Rockies, National Environmental Education Foundation, the Nature Connection and Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Canyons Association, Gunnison Gorge Anglers, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Delta County Tourism Board, Solar Energy International, Kevin Parks State Farm, Four Seasons Investment Advisors, the Pack Shack, Western Colorado Realty and First Colorado National Bank in Paonia.

Photo by Morgan Rubanow The ribbon cutting ceremony for the River Park’s new ramp during the festival.
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