By MIKE WIGGINS
The Daily Sentinel: Thursday, September 21, 2006
The Grand Junction City Council unanimously agreed Wednesday night to pitch $100,000 into an effort to build a whitewater park on the Colorado River near Palisade.
The decision to contribute money to the project came at the request of Palisade Town Administrator Tim Sarmo, who wrote a letter to council members Tuesday claiming the whitewater park is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” that would benefit the entire Grand Valley.
“This is the eleventh hour for this project,” Sarmo wrote in the letter. “If we fail to raise sufficient funds by the end of this year, the opportunity for a whitewater park at the Price-Stubb Dam will be lost forever.”
Palisade town officials have pressed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to build the whitewater park in conjunction with an endangered fish passage on the river at the mouth of De Beque Canyon this winter. The original estimate for the cost of the whitewater park ranged from $400,000 to $600,000. But the Bureau of Reclamation recently indicated the price could be closer to $2 million, putting the project in jeopardy unless park backers come up with the difference.
In his letter to council members, Sarmo said he believed modifications to the design of both of the fish passage and the park could reduce the cost of the park to $1 million. The actual price tag won’t be known until the Bureau of Reclamation receives bids for the fish passage by itself and a combined fish-passage and whitewater-park project.
To date, the Western Association to Enjoy Rivers, a private organization that has taken the lead in promoting the park, has raised $300,000 to $400,000. Sarmo said he hoped the remaining $600,000 to $700,000 could be raised through $300,000 in contributions from local governments, $200,000 in state grants and another $100,000 to $200,000 from WATER.
Sarmo asked for $100,000 from the city, with the balance from local governments expected to be requested from Mesa County. He said in his letter he will submit a $200,000 grant application to Great Outdoors Colorado this week.
Some council members said during Wednesday night’s council meeting they were initially hesitant to give any money, indicating they feared it could open the door to other groups flooding with city with funding requests for projects they claim benefit the greater community. In the end, though, the board said the whitewater park would be an economic boon to the valley.
“I choose to look at this as another tool in our economic development,” Councilman Gregg Palmer said.
Mike Wiggins can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.