The Area Stories: PALISADE
Positive vibes coming from all over fruit and wine country
With the summer produce, festival and tourist season right around the corner, there’s good reason to be optimistic right now in Palisade. The town itself is feeling optimistic right now, too, especially since it was able to finish some major capital construction projects under budget and on time.
“The fire station opened in January,” said Rich Sales, town administrator. “We built the fire station without having to borrow any money.”
The fire station is the second phase of the new civic center on the site of the old Palisade High School and the old Palisade branch of the Mesa County Library. Originally, the town planned to tear down the library and build a new fire station. Then the economy wobbled and more fiscally conservative minds held sway. The library was given a complete renovation to become the new fire station.
“We went from $4 million to $1.8 million,” Sales said.
The town also completed a necessary upgrade to the sewer system that reduced the amount of ammonia to an acceptable level with the use of diffusers in the current system. When the town was made aware of the new standards, the first option was to put in a pipeline system that would get sewage to the Clifton treatment plant. That option cost $9 million and the diffuser system cost $1.1 million. The town applied for and received a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant for $500,000, so the total cost to the town was $600,000.
Fiscally conservative success was the trend for the town even when it threw a party. Last year, the Palisade Bluegrass and Roots Festival made money, breaking an alarming trend that threatened the future of the festival.
“Last year, we changed our marketing and developed new partnerships,” Sales said. “This is the year we start grabbing hold.”
Sales acknowledges that the biggest reason the event made money last year was because of the drink tent and the generosity of Kannah Creek Brewery, the Rockslide, Palisade Brewery, Canyon Wind Vineyard, Grande River Vineyards and Peach Street Distillers, all of whom donated kegs of beer or bottles of wine and spirits.
“This year, we spent more on music,” Sales said. Headliners for the festival, which will be in mid-June, include Justin Townes Earle and The Devil Makes Three.
The town hopes that the new Dollar General store, which had a soft opening earlier in the month, will generate additional tax revenue. Although there was organized opposition when the chain wanted to open a store in the downtown area, the objections died when the retailer found space along Highway 6, in an area the town has identified as a retail corridor.
Food Bank of the Rockies recently moved to a location on River Road in Palisade, where they were able to buy and renovate a warehouse/office building that increases its space from 12,000 to 30,000 square feet.
“We outgrew our old facility,” said Starlene Collins, manager for the food bank warehouse, which distributes food to non-profit organizations and food pantries, like the Catholic Outreach Center or Kids Aid. Food Bank of the Rockies doesn’t deal with individuals and families, so it was looking for a place that didn’t have high traffic. Accessibility for large delivery trucks was more important.
Bellco Credit Union donated $100,000 to the food bank to purchase dehydration equipment, and Collins hopes that the proximity to the orchards and farms in Palisade will make it easier for local farmers to donate produce. The dehydration unit allows them to take seconds and turn them into dried fruit or fruit leather.
Those that like to go to Palisade for recreation may have another bike trail option. Although the Palisade Rim Trail opened last April, trail builders are working to continue the trail all the way to the top of Grand Mesa.
“We want to be able to shuttle people to the top and allow them to ride down,” said Rondo Buechelor with Rapid Creek Cycles, 237 Main St.
Buechelor said there is also additional river access this year, with a new takeout area at the end of Riverbend Park.
Palisade is continuing to work with the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Xcel Energy in hopes of offering its residents and tourists an additional recreational opportunity with a proposed shooting complex at the site of the former Cameo power plant.
“We’re not pushing the schedule of Xcel, but we are asking for a commitment from Xcel,” Sales said. The town is collecting letters of support for the project and taking surveys to determine the level of support within the community. Currently, about 95 percent of survey respondents are in favor of the shooting complex.
Two new stores, Lisa’s Scrapbooking Boutique and Everything Collectible, have opened in the downtown area and two new wineries, Avant Vineyard and Desert Sun Winery and Vineyards, have opened in the surrounding farm area.
Real estate in the Palisade area continues to be a hot commodity.
“The area has that chic country lifestyle that people like,” said Jay Fellhauer with RE/MAX Two Rivers. The area also allows would-be farmers an opportunity to dip their toes into the agricultural experience on a few acres and experiment with crops like peaches, lavender or grapes.
“It’s more than a garden, but less than making your living,” Fellhauer said.