The greater Montrose community came one step closer to a collaborative application for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant Tuesday, after the city locked in an agreement with Montrose County for $50,000 toward the engineering of the whitewater park project.
All five city council members voted to accept the $50,000 offered, which will not only help cover the upfront design costs, but make for a much stronger application to GOCO because of the multi-agency participation. In exchange, the county asked that the city contribute an equal amount to an improvement project in the future to the fairgrounds or other county asset.
Councilor Bob Nicholson, while on board with the plan, hesitated at the way a letter worded the county’s agreement. Nicholson said he was more than willing to keep the city’s side of the bargain, but had assumed the county would ask for repayment only for fairgrounds improvements.
“This clause is a bit open-ended,” he said. “I believe that giving them some discretion is not out of the question, but it’s a big county.”
Nicholson said he feared that the county would someday request funds to support a project far from city limits. But in the end, council agreed that trusting the county to develop a project that would also serve the city’s interest is part of developing an improved relationship between the two entities.
Nicholson said that the willingness for the two agencies to work together is a positive step for this application and future projects.
“For both entities, we can accomplish more jointly than we can individually,” he said. “And that is a compelling reason to work together.”
GOCO offers grants to local governments and governmental agencies for projects that will enhance or conserve the state’s wildlife, parks, rivers, trails and open spaces. The whitewater park project would turn a portion of the Uncompahgre River near Baldridge Park into a handicap-accessible river playground for kayakers and rafters.
Proponents of the idea also see it as an economic development asset. Previous discussions among council included the park’s potential to draw recreational tourists to Montrose, as well as an additional asset for those thinking of relocating to the community.
John Harris, city public works director, says that while he and other staff members work on the GOCO application, preliminary investments are already being made for project planning purposes.
“We are trying to show the GOCO board we are well into the planning,” Harris said. “We are already doing some of the engineering work and we have some basic structural construction and hydrology plans.”
The Montrose Recreation District is also involved in the application process. The collaborative approach may be what it takes to secure a grant, said its executive director, Ken Sherbenou.
Last year, individually submitted applications for the project were denied.
“All the GOCO eligible agencies that could be involved are now on board with the project. In the past, efforts have been somewhat splintered.” Sherbenou said. “It (the park) will make our community more appealing, make the quality of life better and stimulate the economy. I am really excited, and hopeful we get the grant.”