Nelson Harvey
Citizen Telegram Contributor
Rifle, CO Colorado

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November 7, 2012
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Progress in the park

BATTLEMENT MESA - Backers of an elaborate and ambitious public park planned in Battlement Mesa scored a victory on Oct. 31, when they received a $350,000 grant from the recently established Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District.

Backers of the park, to be located on Sipprelle Drive next to Grand Valley Middle School, say the grant will allow them to take initial steps toward construction.

"The first phase is to get surveying done," said Jerry Mohrlang of the Battlement Mesa community group "Common Ground," which has been a major player in the park's conception and design. "We've got a long way to go, even with this grant."

Mohrlang said the Battlement Mesa/Parachute Parks and Recreation Department, which is overseeing the project, is seeking more grants, and what ultimately gets built will depend on funding.

Staff at the Parachute Parks and Recreation District, which is overseeing the project, are continuing to apply for grants. The ultimate look of the park, according to Mohrlang, will depend on how much funding they attract.

"We are meeting Nov. 28 to discuss next steps," said Mary Anderson, district director. "We will have more details after that."

Project backers say the initial earth-moving and park infrastructure is expected to cost around $1.5 million. The total cost will depend on which elements of the park get the ultimate go-ahead.

As currently conceived, however, the park includes a mountain bike skills course with features for various skill levels, a playground modeled after a western frontier town, a fitness course, a stage for plays or concerts, and a barbecue and picnic area, among other features.

Gyles Thorneley, a landscape architect with the Aspen-based Connect One Design, said the park as a whole takes inspiration from the high desert landscape around it.

"This is very geologically driven," he said. "The main feature is meant to mimic a mesa" and various sections are meant to evoke the flat tops, ridges, deltas and rivers that define Western Colorado.

"There was a lot of community input that went into this," Thorneley said, noting that his firm produced three distinct designs based on a community survey, then allowed interested stakeholders to choose the current concept.

The $350,000 grant awarded to the park was the largest approved by the federal mineral lease district in its second round of funding. The lease district was established in 2011, to direct federal oil and gas lease payments made by energy companies to worthy projects throughout the county.

Antero Resources contributed to the project master plan, and both Antero and Encana Oil and Gas have pledged to help cover earth-moving costs, Thorneley said. Antero hopes to drill up to 200 wells within Battlement Mesa, although that effort is currently on hold due to low natural gas prices.

Thorneley noted the project team has also applied for a $350,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, a state group that uses a portion of Lotto proceeds to fund open space and recreation projects. The team will know Dec. 11 whether it receives that award, Thorneley said.

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 7, 2012 05:55PM Published Nov 7, 2012 05:52PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.