Todd Markley remembers the positive impact that building the sports facility at Cedaredge High School had on the community. Markley was principal at Cedaredge Middle School when the high school opened its facility more than 10 years ago.
He said it made practices and sports events much safer for students, but the positive effects went beyond the school.
"You got to see the community involved more in the school," said Markley, now assistant superintendent for the Delta County School District. Markley said people immediately began using the facilities. "And when you'd pull up to work you'd have a chance to even engage conversation with them. 'Good morning. How was your run?' So it did bring the community closer to the school. And I felt that was a very positive thing."
Markley and district superintendent Caryn Gibson were among the roughly 75 people who attended last Friday's open house to unveil the master plans for a proposed sports/educational facility at Paonia High School. PHS students Jason Sturgis and Laura Lund led them and a handful of others on a tour, pointing out features marked with bright ribbons and hand-made signs, and that made it all the more meaningful, said Markley. Sturgis "... was able to express how excited he is and how exciting it will be for the students ... so that they can just walk out their back door and walk on the track, football field, and not have to travel," said Markley.
PHS is the only school in the district that does not have an on-site athletic facility. The other three schools built their facilities 10 or more years ago, and several years after the schools were constructed. "So it's the perfect time for Paonia," said Gibson.
Each facility was funded differently, too, said Gibson. For example, the North Fork Pool, Parks & Recreation District was involved in the Hotchkiss facility. And while the district currently has no budget for such projects, Gibson said that the district supports the project, "... through the use of the school district property, here on school property. And in the future we'll support it with upkeep and through maintenance."
The master plan was paid for by grants from the Colorado Lottery and the Bill Koch Family Foundation. The pro-ject includes educational components, and encompasses a swath of undeveloped land and river frontage on North Fork of the Gunnison River. Part of that riverfront is owned by the Town of Paonia, which is a partner in the project.
Design Concepts in Lafayette created the master plan. Landscape architect Shanen Weber was on hand to answer questions, and said the Paonia site is ideal for this type of project. It has features, including riverfront property, not typically found in a school project.
"It's a great site," said Weber. "It has lots of space, so you have a lot of room to do almost everything that was requested on the site ... A track and a baseball field, a football field, tennis courts, volleyball, basketball, shelters, fitness courses, trails, outdoor classroom. We've been able to fit it all on this site because it's such a nice size and there are so many nice things about the site."
Committee member Bev Wilmore was pleased with public turnout, and hopes it gets them excited about the project and the future of sports and education at PHS. "I think sometimes when you see a picture, it looks pretty," said Wilmore of the master plan. "But to come up here and see what it can actually be, to find out where the track starts and where the Flight of the Eagle walk is going to be, is just, it's kind of fun."
The Flight of the Eagle Walk will lead visitors to the football, baseball and track areas and is where the committee plans to place engraved bricks, which are being sold through a fundraiser for the project. Money raised will be used to leverage grants and other dollars for the project.
While the total cost of the project is unknown at this time, the committee will work with Design Concepts to break the project into phases and begin applying for grants. The plan is to complete those phases as money becomes available.
But the committee isn't going to sit around and wait. On Sept. 28 and 29, committee members and student volunteers will host a demolition project to remove fencing and other structures on the north side of the property where the walk and ball fields will be. The public is invited. They estimate the two-day effort could save them as much as $150,000.