Parks hit grant jackpot

Constraction work at Las Colonias Park Wednesday afternoon.

Mesa County residents will have more places to play outdoors thanks to a nearly $780,000 boost from Great Outdoors Colorado grants for riverfront development, two new playgrounds and more.

Grand Junction will receive $350,000 to expand access and add vegetation to the Colorado River at Las Colonias Park, which has been a high priority since 2013, said Traci Wieland, deputy director of Parks and Recreation.

"People would go to Las Colonias and say, 'Where is the Colorado River?'" Wieland said. "This will expand and enhance the riverfront water channel and add some additional pooling areas so people can actually be able to engage with the water."

Combined with a new boat launch, Wieland said, it will make it much easier for people to interact with the river. The grant will also add new vegetation to the area in the form of native and salt-tolerant plants, Wieland said.

Grant recipients were announced Wednesday afternoon, prompting a lot of cheering and high-fiving at the Eureka! McConnell Science Museum when staff found out about the $255,000 grant for a new outdoor playground, said Executive Director Jenn Moore.

The outdoor classroom and play area will be built on the south side of the building and will be free and open to the public.

The science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) outdoor classroom will include a Fibonacci spiral for kids to climb on, periodic picnic tables, a pollinator garden and native plant walk.

"We want it to be a dynamic, interactive learning environment where kids can play and explore science concepts on play equipment," Moore said. "During the learning day, students need time to get fresh air and recharge their brains, and this new space will allow them that opportunity." The playground will also be funded by grants from the Colorado Health Foundation and American Dermatology Association.

Nisley Elementary School's $110,000 grant will go toward replacing the school's oldest playground, which was built in 1958 and is not accessible to disabled students.

"Their (parent teacher association,) parents and school district personnel have put so much time and effort to make this come to fruition," Wieland said. The playground project currently has 11 funding sources and will replace the current structure's metal bars and pea gravel with poured-in-place rubber mulch, ramps to play equipment and sensory panels as well as the typical slides, swings and monkey bars.

Grand Junction officials applied for the grant on behalf of Nisley, and Mesa County leaders applied for the Eureka! grant.

"The city likes to partner on these projects because we see a lot of value in upgrading school yards," Wieland said. "They're not just school yards, they're really important community play yards as well so it provides enhanced opportunities for the entire community."

Other local Great Outdoors Colorado grants, which are funded by a portion of the Colorado Lottery proceeds, include $65,000 to Fruita to create an updated master plan, $214,348 to renovate Holly Park in Montrose and $217,500 to renovate the Art Dague Pool and Waterslide in Rifle.

Fruita's grant will involve talking with community members as city leaders look at the need for more trails, parks and open spaces as well as more recreation options.

Upgrades to Holly Park in Montrose will include adding a multi-purpose field, playground and enhanced handball courts, expanding the infield and dugout and removing unsafe structures like the sand volleyball and tennis courts.

Rifle city leaders will use their grant to expand the existing bathhouse, add a zero-depth entry leisure pool with a flow channel and aquatic play structure, a six-lane lap pool, family whirlpool and make the facility accessible to people with disabilities.

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