Paonia trustees recently approved three grant applications for the town, two related to parks and recreation, and a third related to marijuana enforcement.
A $45,000 Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Local Park and Outdoor grant would go toward "substantial improvements" to Poulos Park.
Rotary Club of the North Fork, which has helped to upgrade and maintain the park, "was the catalyst" for the application, said Paonia Mayor Charles Stewart. Rotary has a long history of supporting and maintaining Poulos Park, and in 2005 adopted a renovation of Poulos Park for its Rotary International Centennial Project.
In 2017, after several hours of park clean-up and assessments, Rotary proposed a partnership with the town to install lighting and signage, re-design the irrigation system, repair the straw bale wall at the east side of the park from damages due to arson, and plant new vegetation in the park. There is also some discussion about a memorial for Ed Marston, said Stewart.
A 25 percent match by the town -- 15 percent in-kind and 10 percent cash -- is required. Rotary and others have offered to help with that match, explained Elaine Brett, who authored both grant applications.
A GOCO Parks and Outdoor Recreation planning grant of $75,000 would fund development of a town Parks, Recreation and Trails Master Plan encompassing Apple Valley, Lee's, Poulos, Town, and Paonia River parks. The master plan would include possible connector trails and paths between the different parks, local schools and other public places.
Town administrator Ken Knight said that if the Poulos Park project can be completed, the board could check it off from the Parks Master Plan.
It would also be a step toward updating the town's Comprehensive Plan, which hasn't been updated since 1996. Not having an updated comprehensive plan is becoming problematic, said Knight. "The lack of planning has resulted in everything that we do being (done) piecemeal."
Knight thanked Brett for writing and presenting the grant applications. Brett, who has written other grants for the town, volunteers her services. "She's unbelievable," said Knight. Thus far, Brett has invoiced $4,500 to the town and has waived 100 percent of it, "to ensure that the services are considered in-kind contributions to the town."
Two other GOCO grant applications by Western Slope Conservation Center on behalf of the town were recently approved by the board. A $25,255 GOCO habitat grant would fund the "North Fork River Riparian Restoration Project" to restore habitat and remove tamarisk and Russian olive -- identified by the state as invasive weed species -- from "key public spaces," including the Paonia River Park, a 16.8-acre parcel located between Paonia Junior-Senior High School and the North Fork of the Gunnison River owned by the Delta County School District, a 3.5-acre parcel of riverfront property on Coburn Road, and 42.2 acres at the Paonia wastewater treatment plant located between Highway 133 and the North Fork River.
The grant would further the community's efforts to build a connector trail system between local parks, the junior-senior high school, the library and downtown Paonia, which ties in with the town's Recreation and Trails Master Plan. It would also engage and educate local students and the community on the value of river ecosystems through hands-on service activities.
Project cost estimate is $47,915. The in-kind match includes WSCC volunteer hours, and $1,000 in use of machinery supplied by the town. WSCC has also secured a matching $10,000 "Fishing is Fun" grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and a $1,500 New Belgium Water Stewardship grant.
A second, and similar, application for a GOCO/Colorado Youth Corps Association Habitat Restoration grant would fund a crew from the Western Colorado Conservation Corps to conduct trail maintenance, repair damage to the Paonia River Park trail system caused by a flash flood in July, remove invasive vegetation, and construct up to 1,000 feet of trail system on the high school property.
Also approved was an application for a Gray & Black Market Marijuana Enforcement grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. In light of passage of recreational marijuana laws that went into effect on Jan 1, DOLA has made available $6 million annually under state statute to help "local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys with investigation and prosecution costs associated with unlicensed marijuana cultivation or distribution operations."
No in-kind or cash matches are required, said Police Chief Neil Ferguson.