In 2005 Rotarians adopted renovation of Poulos Park in downtown Paonia as their "Rotary International Centennial Project." To fund the project members collected $40,000 in private donations and transformed the space into an inviting park complete with picnic tables, vegetation and an irrigation system.
Last June, a handful of volunteers (including this reporter) cleaned the park ahead of the Cherry Days weekend. They picked up countless broken bottles, cigarette butts and a lot of other trash. Rotarians noted several incidents of vandalism, including damaged tables, graffiti, damaged and missing vegetation and a large burn mark on the large spruce tree in the back of the park.
Rotary members voted to investigate working with the Town of Paonia on a renovation project. Rotary "is interested, supportive and concerned about the welfare of that park," said Rotarian Sarah Bishop, who is spearheading the project. As a community service organization, Rotary's interest is in engaging the community in the support of the project, just as they did a decade or more ago "when we turned it from a grassy area with two trees to what you see today."
Rotary was ready to move forward with the project when two fires were set in the straw bale wall at the back of the park near the alleyway in late August and early September.
Bishop told the town board of trustees that Rotary is hesitant to proceed with the project until the vandalism is addressed by the town and the police department. Rotary members couldn't see asking the public to support something that would be subject to damage, said Bishop.
As a result of meetings between Rotary and town staff, the town will install the lighting, said town administrator Ken Knight, calling it critical to curbing the vandalism.
To make it a true community project, trustees unanimously approved the establishment of an account for donations for the restoration project and for long-term maintenance. Rotary will consult with a local landscape artist Wind Clearwater, said Bishop. "Over the years we've learned what type of plants in a public space work, and what type of plants don't."
Other projects include replacing the damaged table, installing a new irrigation system, fixing the straw bale wall, installing attractive signage similar to what is in Town Park. The club will reach out to the North Fork Creative Coalition for ideas on how to make the signage attractive.
The project will be done in stages over a period of about 18 months, said Bishop.
Trustees will consider funding for lighting in the 2018 town budget process. Knight said the town will investigate working with Solar Energy International to power the lights with solar energy.