Fiscal partnership aims to expand Rifle’s Colorado River Interpretive Center hours |

Fiscal partnership aims to expand Rifle’s Colorado River Interpretive Center hours

A newly established fiscal partnership between the city of Rifle and the Middle Colorado Watershed Council is being used to acquire a significant grant through Great Outdoors Colorado.

Rifle, acting as fiscal agent, will assist the watershed council in seeking a $271,000 grant to expand hours and more for an information center and rest stop in Rifle near Interstate 70. If Rifle receives the grant, the funds will be redistributed to the watershed council, with Rifle receiving 1.5% management fee in return.

MCWC Executive Director Paula Stepp told Rifle City Council on Aug. 17 since the watershed council isn’t a land-trust nonprofit, it needs a fiscal agent in order to apply and obtain grant funding.

Stepp said the watershed council, with limited staff and contractors, aims to use this grant opportunity for “capacity building.”

“It’s made us have to let go of some projects midstream,” she said of the council’s limited staff.

In addition to potentially hiring a consultant, moving two part-time staff to full-time and adding more benefits, among other requests, grant funding could help Rifle’s Colorado River Interpretive Center.

The Center, which opened at the Rifle rest stop in 2017, operates on a part-time basis. Rifle donated the rest stop to the watershed council to make this happen.

With the grant funding, it could make the center fully operational by adding a part-time person to oversee volunteers and help with programming and engage with visitors, according to city documents.

The partnership, which passed unanimously Aug. 17, means the Rifle inherits any liabilities stated through the grant, Rifle City Attorney Jim Neu said.

The only real concern Rifle City Council expressed about the partnership with the watershed council is that it doesn’t “open the door” for too many partnership proposals coming from additional organizations.

“We obviously have a long history with (the watershed council), and it makes a lot of sense to me,” Rifle Council Member Sean Strode said. “But I want to be cautious moving forward.”

Stepp said the watershed council wanted Rifle as a fiscal partner because of upcoming future work in relation to the Colorado River. Stepp mentioned that Rifle, which purchased nearby Paradise Island in 2021, is set to perform riparian restorative work and that’s why a partnership seemed attractive.

“Because you generously offer us the opportunities, they have the river stop at the rest area, you would be a good partner as our fiscal sponsor agent,” Stepp said.

The Garfield County grant cycle will be announced by Dec. 9.

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