Rifle city councilors mull over Independence Day fireworks
Concerns over possible dry conditions this summer have city leaders questioning whether igniting fireworks in observance of Independence Day is such a good idea.
“I think with all of the fire issues that are just getting worse and worse, that we need to seriously consider not having fireworks,” Mayor Barbara Clifton said during a March 17 workshop. “I appreciate that people really like them — I just think that the situation is just going to get worse.”
If the city were to cancel the upcoming fireworks display it’d mark the third Independence Day fireworks cancelation of its kind in the past 10 years. Parks and Recreation Department Director Tom Whitmore said 2018 and 2020 were other years in which fireworks shows were canceled.
In 2020, however, plans to have fireworks for Hometown Holidays were also canceled due to COVID-19.
Whitmore said Garfield County does have a year-round fire ban in place. The ban, however, is expected to be lifted from June 1 to July 5, an exemption which will allow the city to hold the fireworks display at Centennial Park.
Typically what happens is, the city plans ahead prior to July 3 — the day of the celebration. Whitmore said they communicate with the fire district, analyze conditions and weather patterns, then they make a decision whether they’ll ignite the display as quickly as they can.
“Fireworks can be canceled the same day due to weather,” he said. “We’ve had a couple squalls come in during symphony in the valley and people left and two hours later we had a wonderful fireworks show, so that kind of thing can happen too.”
Whitmore also spoke to part of the reason why the city’s now addressing the possibility of having fireworks.
“We still need to make a decision soon about what we want to do,” Whitkmore said. “We have to sign a lease for the fireworks people because if the shooter has COVID, they may have to cancel because the shooter can’t shoot.”
The fireworks display is a longstanding tradition in Rifle. Since the 1960s, local firefighters would pull up to residences in their fire trucks to raise money for the Fourth of July fireworks display. In return, kids would get free rides on the truck.
Within about a five-day span, their efforts would help raise between $9,000-$14,000. Fireworks displays, however, came to a halt to halt in 2007, due to economic and safety reasons. By 2010, city leaders and local organizations began talks of bringing the fireworks back to Rifle.
Instead of fireworks this summer, the city said they could do drone and laser shows, and reserve time during future Hometown Holiday events for fireworks displays.
VETERANS MEMORIAL, CEMETERY WORK
In other news, the city also discussed finishing a veterans memorial park on existing county land near the intersection of 18th Street and Railroad Avenue. Though no action was taken, Whitmore said the city could use a portion of a budgeted $15,000 in the park capital fund for preliminary work for the proposed project.
Though estimated costs were not disclosed since the project has not gone out to bid, the proposed project would resemble a similar veterans memorial in North Palm Beach, Florida — an amenity with a final price tag of $430,000.
The money could also be used for parks and playground planning.
Whitmore said he’ll get bids for the veterans memorial park project and go from there.
In addition, the city discussed using $25,000 — budgeted from the Cemetery Perpetual Care fund — for repair and maintenance services at the city cemetery.
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Monday’s arrival of the Garfield Re-2 School District’s mask mandate was met by an organized protest and march in Rifle.