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North Fork river float, festival is June 3

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Photo courtesy Jim Brett

The Western Slope is pulling out its paddles and PFDs for Western Slope Conservation Center's 17th annual Float Fest Saturday, June 3. This year, the Conservation Center is celebrating its 40th anniversary and the completion of the new one-mile loop at the Paonia River Park.

Floaters start at the Paonia River Park boat ramp and take out at the site of the future boat ramp at the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss.

Following the float, a free Float Festival is open to the entire community from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the Paonia River Park. Guests can explore the Paonia River Park and bid on silent auction items from RIGS, Chacos, Nelle's Cafe, PJ's Restaurant, Shish KaBikes, and more. This year's big-ticket items include a five-horse pack trip into the Gunnison River from J and Ray Outfitters, a guided stand-up paddleboard tour for two with Western Slope SUP, and a SunMar composting toilet. Festival goers can purchase lunch from Delicious Orchards, and local bands Mojo and Eclectic Alchemy will be playing live music all afternoon.

See westernslopeconservation.org to register and find out more.

The Conservation Center is still seeking raft captains with their rafts to lead this fun-filled float adventure for the whole community. Please contact WSCC if interested.

This year's float trip sponsors include the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Four Seasons Investment Advisors, KREX, Solar Energy International, Gunnison Gorge Anglers/Trout Unlimited, Our Side of the Divide, High Country News, Pack Shack, Neon Desert Design, and Western Colorado Realty.

WSCC is also planning a full week of river events at the Paonia River Park. On June 1 and 2, WSCC is inviting community leaders and restoration professionals to attend a two-day community river restoration and mining reclamation "Gravel Mine to Green Space" workshop. Many communities with mining legacies across the country are faced with major challenges of transitioning their local economies while also stewarding their lands and watersheds. Creative, community-oriented reclamation can turn environmental liabilities into community centerpieces, generating valuable economic, environmental, and recreational opportunities.

The Paonia River Park is a prime example of a successful and sustainable post-mining reclamation project. Formerly an in-stream gravel mine, the Paonia River Park is now a fully functioning public-access park with a boat ramp, beach and swimming holes, picnic areas, new trail network, and ADA accessible features.

At this workshop, attendees will tour the river park, learn about the technical aspects of restoration, social impacts of the park, discuss WSCC's successes and lessons learned, explore creative funding techniques, network with fellow practitioners and community leaders from mining regions, and leave with an overall sense of what it means to undergo a community-directed reclamation project.

To learn more visit westernslopeconservation.org, call 527-5307 or visit the office at 204 Poplar Avenue in Paonia.

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North Fork
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Paonia, river float
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