Grants to fund park, playgrounds and planning

Four grants worth a total of $780,000 will help fund park development, playgrounds and planning in Mesa County.

Great Outdoors Colorado awarded the grants under a nearly 30-year-old program allocating proceeds from the state lottery for parks, wildlife and open spaces.

The latest grants bring total funding for Mesa County projects over the years to $42.6 million. More than 16,600 acres of land in the county also have been conserved.

The City of Grand Junction received a $350,000 grant to help develop Las Colonias Park. The city and Nisley Elementary School received a $110,000 grant to replace a playground. Mesa County received a $255,000 grant for an outdoor classroom and play space. The City of Fruita received a $65,000 grant to update its master plan for parks, open space and trails.

The project at the 140-acre Las Colonias Park will include design work on inlet channels to improve water flow in the Colorado River and revegetate the river bank to control erosion, improve wildlife habitat and promote access and recreational use. The work also will make the park more suitable for outdoor education programs for local children and Colorado Mesa University students.

Nisley Elementary will replace a playground that hasn’t been significantly updated since the school opened in 1958.

The work will include a universally accessible play and learning area. Planned features include a swing set, slides, climbing structure, sensory panels and fitness stations. The school yard will also include an area for outdoor learning with painted maps of the United States and Colorado, native trees and plants and shaded areas for reading and studying.

Funded schools are eligible to become part of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Schools and Outdoor Learning Environment program, which provides field trips, family nature nights and outdoor education training for teachers.

Mesa County will join with the Eureka McConnell Science Museum in Grand Junction to construct an outdoor classroom and play space for activities promoting science, technology, engineering and math.

The museum offers week-long environmental and recreation science programs for children. In 2018, the museum conducted 110 summer camps to teach students about biology, gardening, the environment, hydrology and other topics.

The new play space will enable program participants to take their learning outdoors and reinforce program curriculum. The space will also include features tied to recreation on the Western Slope. The space will incorporate climbing features and boulders that encourage adventure play and exploration, a pollinator garden with a native plant walk and benches designed for recreational skateboard use. The play space will be open and free to the public.

The City of Fruita plans to update its parks, open space and trails master plan. Since the plan was created nearly 10 years ago, the population has grown 20 percent and demand for parks and recreational services has increased proportionally. The city parks and recreation staff has increased its staff from three to 14 and plans to hire two more employees this year.

The 2019 master planning process will enlist the assistance of the community in assessing the conditions of recreational facilities and programs and identify needs for additional trails, parks and open spaces. City planners also will explore the health benefits of recreational activities for residents.