‘Be the positive change’: Parents in small Colorado town raising funds to refurbish only community park
3/17/23, 6:00 PM
COLORADO CITY, Colo. (KKTV) - When the economy collapsed in 2008, with it collapsed the ongoing project to finish Colorado City’s only community park.
At the time, the town was trying to build a football field so that its kids had another place to play sports.
“We finished the first two phases ... the economy collapsed, and we weren’t able to finish the final phase. The [field] has been sitting for 17 years, and it’s never once been used by the youth of our community,” said community member Misty Sprague.
As the field sat empty for nearly two decades -- “An eyesore,” described Colorado City Metro District Manager James Eccher -- the rest of the park surrounding it began showing its age. Infrastructure such as playground equipment was in dire need of repairs, sports teams were fighting over the only two public fields that the park did have, the track’s asphalt was cracking, and the parked lacked such critical necessities such as ample lighting and ADA-compliant ramps.
Enter Sprague, and some of the other parents of Colorado City.
“They really stepped up,” Eccher said.
“We felt like being part of a solution versus part of the complainers, so we formed this non-profit group, we’re an all-volunteer organization, and we’re working in conjunction with the Colorado City Metro District to finish revitalizing the park,” Sprague said.
The group consisted of several people with backgrounds such as business, construction management, and in Sprague’s case, grant writing.
“There’s only so much that [the Colorado City Metro District] can do, so we felt like, again, why don’t we pitch in and get this going? As part of my work -- I worked in educational technology and technology for the last 20 years -- I’ve done a lot of grant writing and grant sourcing and project management, so I said, ‘Hey, we have these skillsets that we can lend to them and really help them get the funding for, so let’s get together and do that,’ so that’s how we got together, we picked community members that had different types of backgrounds.”
“We were frustrated,” she went on, explaining why they had such passion, “that our kids had to fight for playing time or that kids didn’t have the access to be able to get what they needed. … Over 50 percent of our kids in our community are on free and reduced lunch. So as part of that, they can’t really afford to drive the 60 miles round-trip into Pueblo to be able to go to practice, to be able to go to games, and so it just makes sports and recreation inaccessible to them.”
So after a decade and a half of inactivity:
“We’ve written 38 different grant applications and we’ve raised $550,000 in the last six months,” Sprague said.
Grant funders have included Pueblo County, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the state of Colorado, and the Colorado City Metro District itself. The community also banded together for a fundraiser, Spring into Spring, that pulled another several thousand.
The amount raised so far puts Sprague’s non-profit, Valley First, well on its way to its $1.4 million goal (Editor’s note: We originally reported the group was trying to raise $1 million. The number needed is $1.4 million.)
The group is continuing to write grants, but is also starting to ask local businesses if they want to sponsor part of the field. Other community fundraisers are also possible down the road.
So while grants still need to be written and funds still need to be raised, with this flurry of activity and this dedicated group, a new and improved Greenhorn Meadows Park is starting to materialize.
Improvements Sprague’s group hopes to make happen includes:
- Adding lighting to the track so that people can walk and run safely
- Resurface the track
- Replace the gravel surface on the playground with a safer padded surface (”The pea gravel that is beneath it was considered safe for fall injuries when it was installed, but over time they learned that it is unsafe for fall injuries so we would like to replace that with a more padded surface to prevent injuries,” Sprague explained.)
- Add more little league fields so teams are no longer fighting for playing time or being forced to travel out of town, as well as enable the community to host tournaments. (”It‘s so competitive for field time up here that coaches have to fight to get their kids field time, to be able to play,” Sprague said.)
- Build more trails and make them 6-feet wide so that they are ADA-compliant
- Put in more benches and bike racks.
- Install ADA-compliant ramps so that the park is inclusive and accessible for all.
- And of course, finish the football field. Sprague and Eccher envision it becoming a place not only for kids to play, but somewhere they can host movie nights, vendor fairs, and other fun community-wide events.
“There might be half a mile between houses out here. So by having a central meeting place, it helps. It helps bring the community together,” Sprague said.
Sprague said an added bonus to the finish product is that it could help flush much-needed tourism dollars into the community as well.
“We’re a rural community, and so we’re sort of a pass-through community. And so when we get these resources done, it’s actually a tourism thing for us as well. Like, if we hold a baseball tournament here for the weekend, we get hundreds of families that come up here. They eat at our restaurants, they camp at our campgrounds, and it just brings really well-needed resources to our businesses, which helps us thrive as a community as well.”
But regardless of whether out-of-towners come or not, the park is first and foremost for the people of Colorado City.
“I just think the kids drive by, and it’s an eyesore. And they feel like, ‘This was our field of dreams.’ And we want to show them that we care about them and getting them the resources,” Sprague said.
She and Eccher hope the work Colorado City is doing can help inspire similar rural communities.
“You can do this,” Sprague said. “You can get together with other people in your community and make the positive change that you want to see.”
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