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GOCO grant makes dream of fields a reality

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Photo by Tamie Meck Construction of the Crossroads Park Ballfield Complex on Bulldog Street will begin this spring, thanks to a $350,000 Great Outdoors Colorado Local Park and Outdoor Recreation grant awarded to the North Fork Pool, Parks & Recreation Dis

Thanks to a generous grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, kids will be playing at a new youth baseball and softball complex in the North Fork.

The North Fork Pool, Parks & Recreation District was notified by GOCO last week that it will receive a $350,000 Local Park and Outdoor Recreation (LPOR) grant to build ballfields and amenities at Crossroads Park on Bulldog Street in Hotchkiss. The grant, along with matching in-kind and cash donations, will go toward construction of four ballfields. Included in the funding are dugouts, scoreboards, batting cages, bleachers, signage, and a drinking water fountain.

NFPPR partnered with the nonprofit Hotchkiss Home Plate youth baseball and softball organization on the grant. For more than a decade, Home Plate has provided baseball and softball opportunities to area youth. Home Plate currently uses the ballfields located at the Delta County Fairgrounds and at Hotchkiss K8 School. With the Delta County Master Plan calling for elimination of the fairground fields, the Home Plate board began researching its options.

Two years ago, the board approached the NFPPR board to suggest a partnership. The two organizations have worked together ever since on planning and grant writing. "It was a huge team effort," said NFPPR district administrator Lenore Cambria. "The two organizations work together well."

The plan is to complete the project by this November. Once the fields are ready, they can host multi-day tournaments and start bringing people to town, said Cambria.

"Everyone is so excited," said Home Plate board secretary Michelle Pagone. She and husband Terry have served on the nine-member board of directors for almost a decade. "Everyone knows how hard we fought for it."

Not only will the centrally located facility be more convenient, it also increases safety by eliminating the need for parents and players to cross the highway between the two in-town ball parks. In addition, parents with two or more children registered in the program have said that they are happy that they will no longer have to choose between the two locations, said Pagone.

The shovel-ready project will be built adjacent to Crossroads Park, which includes the North Fork Pool, soccer fields, a bicycle pump track, trails, and picnic pavilions. Requests for bids are expected to go out this spring.

Of the 59 grant applicants GOCO received from across the state, NFPPR was one of 14 to receive LPOR funding of up to $350,000.

Total funding requests more than tripled available funding, according to a press release from GOCO. Grants will fund 37 projects in 25 counties, serve 32 underserved or rural communities, and is expected to impact more than 4,000 youth. "It's impressive to see how funding reaches across the entire state," said NFPPR board member Kathryn Oxford.

Other Western Slope grants include $170,073 for town park expansion and improvements for the Town of Norwood and $350,000 for an improvement project for the Town of Nucla. The Town of New Castle, Gunnison County and the Town of Naturita will receive GOCO planning grants, and the City of Montrose partnered with Columbine Middle School on a $110,000 GOCO School Yard Initiatives grant.

To date, GOCO has invested $9.4 million in Delta County projects. The Nature Connection, a coalition of partners created to increase outdoor opportunities for students in Delta County and Olathe, is headquartered on Bulldog Street. TNC was recently was awarded a $1.72 million GOCO Inspire grant. A portion of those funds will go toward a bicycle pump track and low ropes challenge course, a walking path, climbing boulders and shade structures.

That the NFPPR facility is growing is very exciting, said Cambria. The new complex will allow the 25-year-old district to better meet its mission of providing a variety of activities and programs, promoting healthy lifestyles, building strong families, and providing a sense of community pride.

The grant would not be possible without the support of the community, said Cambria. Matching funds came largely from preliminary design, bid specs and engineering donated by Randy Fender of Mesa Engineering & Survey, along with sprinkler system plans from Grand Junction Pipe & Supply.

Community support through cash and in-kind donations of materials, volunteer labor and equipment is still needed, said Oxford. "The more in-kind support we can get, the farther we can stretch that $350,000."

The GOCO grant is also the first step in applying for grants from other sources, including the Department of Local Affairs, Gates Family Foundation, Daniels Fund and El Pomar, said Cambria.

Home Plate's two-year fundraising efforts will continue, said Pagone. The organization will host a 5Kfundraiser on May 12, and will continue to set up its dunk tank at local events. The dunk tank is also available for rent.

Home Plate spring registration is underway and continues from 3:30-5 p.m. March 21 at the Hotchkiss K8 office and March 23 at the Maloney House at the Delta County Fairgrounds. Visit the Hotchkiss Home Plate Facebook page for more information.

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North Fork
ball fields, Home Plate, Hotchkiss, North Fork Pool
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