"The fields, from an outdoor recreation prospective, are the bread and butter of the recreation district," said MRD Executive Director Ken Sherbenou.
The fields at Ute Park were constructed about 30 years ago and host almost daily activities in the warmer months with the district's softball leagues. The Uncompahgre River wraps around a third of the park, while a parking lot and small fishing pond share the other two sides.
Southeast of Ute Park, through the sagebrush and Russian olive trees, is 20-year-old McNeil Park. This area consists of two baseball fields and a multipurpose area where more than a handful of youth soccer teams can often be found playing. "Currently, they are very much separate facilities," Sherbenou said.
But Sherbenou and the recreation district would like to change that, as well as improve the aging fields and add a few amenities that would enhance the areas for its users.
But to accomplish such a project, the rec district needs the help of Great Outdoors Colorado, he said.
Created by voters in 1992, GOCO uses a portion of Colorado Lottery dollars to help preserve, protect, enhance and manage the state's parks, rivers, trails and open space through a biannual grant program, according to its website.
Montrose Recreation District is submitting a grant and hopes to be awarded the approximately $135,000 it's asking for to move ahead with its field improvements project. The $180,000 project will move forward only if the grant is awarded, Sherbenou said. The application is due by the end of February and an announcement should come in June.
"This is a funding mechanism available for agencies like ours to help us with parks, recreation and fields," Sherbenou said. "It's been a while since we've applied and [we] thought this [would be] the best way for going after [the improvements]."
Specifically, the project includes enhancing the two softball fields and two baseball fields with new infield materials, sprinklers and fencing. It would construct a riverway trail from the McNeil parking lot, behind the fields and parallel to the Uncompahgre River, where it would then connect to the city's current trail system at the corner of Ute Park and the city's Riverbottom Park. Another trail would run through the undeveloped area between Ute and McNeil parks, where there is also a proposed sensory playground and sheltered-fitness area.
Montrose citizen Dan Paradis approached the rec district regarding the creation of an adult fitness area and will raise funds and select the equipment, Sherbenou said.
"That is another thing that GOCO likes to see, is citizens taking ownership and helping agencies to apply," he said.
Paradis was out of the country and could not be reached for comment by press time.
The playground is specifically designed for youth with special needs, and the river trails and improvements fit in with the City of Montrose's Riverway Master Plan, which favored well with the GOCO officials, Sherbenou said.
"We got good feedback from the officials about the project and they acknowledged that it meets a lot of their objectives as an agency, including riverway enhancement, improving fields and providing amenities that are lacking in a community," he said.
The district is currently taking community input as part of the grant process. A community survey and more information is available on the district's website at www.montroserec.com.