KVNF Sports Reporter Tamie Meck has been following the proposed educational and sports facility at Paonia Junior/Senior High School, and attended an open house last Friday for a tour of the site.
Last May, the Paonia High School girls track team wont hte state 2A title. It was the school's first state track title. But what many didn't see behind the championship was that, despite boasting some of the best male and female athletes in the state, PHS is one of a handful of schools in the state without its own track. It also lacks football and baseball facilities, and other amenities typically found at high schools across the nation.
A committee of parents, business owners, educators and PHS alumni is hoping to change that. At Friday's open house, the Junior/Senior High Facilities Committee unveiled the facility's master plan to the roughly 75 people to attend. If the plan grows to fruition, Paonia will be the last of the four Delta County high schools to get an on-site sports facility.
Student council member and athlete Jason Sturgis was one of about a dozen students on hand to guide visitors through the proposed project. He says the new facilities will help since athletes won't have to travel to Volunteer Park.
The master plan was funded by grants from the Colorado Lottery and the Bill Koch Family Foundation. Superintendent Caryn Gibson and Assistant Superintendent Todd Markley took a mini tour to the site of the proposed "Flight of the Eagle Walkway." The path will wind its way to the football and baseball fields. The committee hopes to line the path with bricks and plaques engraved with the names of project donors.
Gibson said that the district supports the project, but has no money to put toward it. Raising money will be key to completion of the project, which will be broken into phases and completed as dollars become available.
"Right now we're supporting it through the use of the school district property," Gibson said, "and in the future we'll support it with upkeep, and through maintenance, and through keeping everything you know, up to date."
Markley was principal at Cedaredge Middle School when the high school opened its athletic facilities more than ten years ago. He said the facilities did more than give students a secure place to practice.
"You got to see the community involved more in the school, 'cause they would use it to walk in the morning or for exercise," he said. "So it did bring the community closer to the school."
Design Concepts in Lafayette, Colorado created the master plan. Architect Shanen Weber was on hand to answer questions, and she said the Paonia site is ideal for this type of project.
"The site has property that we normally don't get to work with in terms of design, especially for a school," she said. "It's a great site, it has lots of space, so we have a lot of room to do almost everything that was requested."
Committee member Bev Wilmore was pleased with public turnout, which included a few new donors.
"Our goal today was just to cast the vision," said Wilmore. "I think sometimes when you see a picture, it looks pretty, but to come up here and see what it actually can be and where the track starts, and where the Flight of the Eagle Walkway is going to be, it's kind of fun."
Committee Chair Cindy Swartzendruber said the plan is to make the riverfront area accessible to the public, while keeping in mind wildlife. Swartzendruber said a science class visited the site last year, and a fox came and sat next to a student.
"So you don't want to change it too much that you scare the wildlife off, 'cause that's a nice opportunity," she said. "To investigate the different kinds of trees, the different birds, it's a wonderful classroom as well as a beautiful working trail."
The master plan can be viewed at Paonia High School.