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Rifle Parks and Recreation adding a little shade to Metro Park

Tree planting will begin next week around the new pool facility

The Rifle Parks and Recreation department is planning on planting new trees around the new pool facility and Metro Park as the project nears completion. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)

With the new pool project nearly finished, Rifle Parks and Recreation Department is planning to add some shrubs and trees to the pool area and around Metro Park to observe Arbor Day this year.

Parks and Recreation Director Tom Whitmore is leading the charge after asking the Rifle City Council for a Arbor Day proclamation as the city seeks the Tree City USA designation this year.

“We don’t always do it, because we don’t always plant enough trees and spend enough money to meet the per-capita requirement for the Arbor Day Association,” Whitmore said.

With around $16,000 from the Parks and Recreation budget and pool project budget, the department plans to plant trees and shrubs around the pool and in Metro Park.

The city was last recognized in 1999 and 2000 by the foundation.

To qualify for Tree City USA a community must meet four standards established by the foundation and the National Association of State Foresters, the Arbor Day Foundation website states.

The standards include a tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, annual budget of at least $2 per capita, and Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

The city has met three of the four requirements and hopes that by the end of the year they will have met the $2 per-capita requirement.

“You can have a really good tree maintenance program and have a lot of trees, and not necessarily spending that much money annually to get a tree city,” Whitmore said.

“We think we might meet that by the end of the year, so we are applying and hope to get a tree city for this year.”

Whitmore started working for the city back in 1995; within four to five years they had planted 300-400 trees. 

“We pretty much planted out everything we could and still leave some open turf for youth sports and flexible space,” Whitmore said.

This will be the first time since the late ’90s that the city will be planting a large amount of trees in the city maintained parks.

Rifle currently maintains 11 parks locations, two that are playgrounds only. There are seven total playgrounds in town, 10 picnic shelters and youth sports fields, and over five miles of trails.

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions and the closed construction site around the pool Whitmore said they would be unable to have an event or gather during the planting next week.

The tree planting in the pool area will also help create shade around the new facility, and Whitmore wants to get the trees in as soon as the weather permits so they can begin to grow.

Once the major construction of the pool is out of the way, Whitmore said they will start in on trenching and installation of irrigation systems. Until then they will hand water the trees planted.

Parks and Recreation and city of Rifle grounds and facilities staff will be doing the planting and trenching and also installing irrigation as the contractor gets the site graded and ready to turn it over to the city.

“I try not to make too big of a deal about it, because we may or may not qualify, but we are going to try and meet those qualifications and get recognized,” Whitmore said. “It’s just one of those things that we want the public to know about.”

POOL PROGRESS

Residents who have driven by the pool can see the facility and the aquatic structures taking shape and might have noticed how far along the project is as the slated opening week approaches. 

“The construction part of it is on schedule, and it’s been very tight, and they have been very diligent about getting this stuff done,” Whitmore said.

“They’ve really been pushing everybody to meet the deadline, our planned opening was going to be the week around Memorial Day.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic and Gov. Jared Polis’s stay at home and now safer at home order, initial plans for the pool opening are currently up in the air, but Whitmore said the city is still hoping it might be able to do something around that date.

“We just don’t know, if all the COVID restrictions were lifted, I think that week between Memorial Day and the following weekend is what we are shooting for, but I don’t think they are going to be lifted,” Whitmore said.

The last concrete deck was poured recently for a shade structure, and later this week they will be coating the inside lining of the pool with a finishing plaster called Diamond Brite.

“Once the plaster goes in, then it has to pretty much immediately be followed with water,” Whitmore said.  

A commissioning agent will be on site testing and certifying everything in the next few weeks, and the city hopes to have staff training and employees around the facility getting it ready for the public.

Parks and Recreation is currently running a drawing on its website and Facebook page, and the winners will be the first residents to use the pool facility during a soft opening that will be scheduled as soon as restrictions are lifted.

Whitmore said people can call, email or message on Facebook their information to enter the drawing.

The drawing will take place May 15, and the department will announce the winners on May 18.

“We are looking at about 250 people to be the first members of the public to be in the pool facility when we are ready to open,” Whitmore said.

 “Anyone that is interested can sign up for the drawing, people are really excited about being the first ones to come into the pool.”

kmills@postindependent.com


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