Rifle shows support for using green space north of Centennial Park for educational purposes

Rifle Creek flows behind the old NAPA warehouse west of Railroad Avenue on Tuesday. There's a proposal to conserve this space for educational purposes.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Nearly three acres of green space and wetlands rest just behind the old Napa Auto Parts warehouse on Railroad Avenue. Right now there’s a proposal to convert that green space into a multifaceted outdoor classroom.

Garfield County Extension Director Carla Farrand, told Rifle City Council members and staff on Nov. 2 there’s an opportunity to use this area to create spaces for local students (and adults) to study gardening, hydraulic and solar power, archery, outdoor recreation and more. The proposal also includes building an amphitheater.

The prospective area is connected to Rifle’s trail system as well as Rifle Creek. It sits in close proximity to Centennial Park and Rifle Middle School.

“It’s a beautiful spot,” Farrand said. “A lot of families use that space.”

“Our goal is to make it look like an extension of Centennial Park but more open for education.”

In addition to the potential for outdoor exploration, the Garfield County Colorado State University Extension Office would uproot from its current location at the nearby fairgrounds and move into the vacant NAPA building. There, indoor classrooms and a shop will also be dedicated toward programs like 4-H and, with installed kitchens, Science, Technology, Education, Art and Math (STEAM) opportunities.

Rifle City Council later that evening signed a letter supporting the project, which is only in its design stage at this point. The real question is whether Farrand and fellow stakeholders can garner enough funds to bring the project to life.

City documents show Garfield County, which purchased the land from Rifle in summer 2019, has already put forth $400,000, with another $100,000 coming from Garfield County’s Federal Mineral Release District and $72,000 from Garfield County Outdoors. There’s also more than $56,000 coming in private donations. 

Farrand said she’s now trying to secure an additional $250,000 in grant funding from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), a statewide organization that allocates Colorado lottery revenue toward local governments, nonprofits and other entities promoting outdoor conservation efforts.

Rifle’s letter of support means the extension office and the city won’t be competing for the same GOCO grant in the same funding cycle, which was really city council’s main concern.

“I think it’s a cool idea,” Rifle City Council member Sean Strode said. “I love the proximity to the middle school, and I think the open space dedication is invaluable.”

“From my perspective, I’m happy to support it as long as we’re not conflicting with grants.”

Working with the University of Colorado, the county originally bought the land and the NAPA building because the Garfield County Fairgrounds and Events Center needs more space. The extension office, with four agents, runs the area’s entire 4-H program from a 1,000 square foot office and a couple storage sheds. There are currently 300 local 4-H members, including 120 volunteers.

Farrand joked on Friday that she has no leg room underneath her desk. Bigger picture, the newly proposed expansion widens opportunities for 4-H, other local clubs and after-school programing.

“The number one thing all kids want to learn is how to cook,” Farrand said.

Per the grant application process, Farrand said GOCO is currently reviewing the proposal. If they like it, only then can the extension office submit a grant application in early January. If the grant is awarded — the extension office will catch word of this some time in late April or March — then ground is slated to be broken in summer 2023.

“Anybody in the community is welcome to donate,” Farrand said. “It all goes toward the CSU foundation and it’s tax exempt.Visit for more information on donations, or call Farrand at the extension office at 970-625-3969.

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