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History of the Paonia River Park
The Paonia River Park is the product of community collaboration and partnership. Once an in-stream gravel mine, the North Fork River Improvement Association (now the Western Slope Conservation Center, WSCC) worked hard to reclaim the river, restore riparian habitat, and make the park a family-friendly recreation area. With the help of the Minnesota Ditch & Reservoir Company, the Conservation Center completed the Paonia River Park Restoration Project in 2013, transforming the former in-stream gravel mine into a healthy aquatic ecosystem. In 2016, the park expanded to include an interpretive trail system. This expansion allows visitors the opportunity to explore the riparian habitat even further along the corridor without disturbing precious wildlife habitat. The park now contains a shaded picnic area, outdoor classroom, boat launch, river viewing platform, an ADA compliant access ramp, and a one-mile trail. The park is one of only two public access points along the North Fork of the Gunnison river (North Fork) wherever 95 percent of land along the river is privately owned. The Conservation Center is committed to connecting the community to the river, maintaining a balance between natural and built structures, and ensuring project sustainability through public participation. The 2023 spring run-off season brought much needed relief from drought, but also intense destruction as the North Fork raged to near fifty-year flood stage levels. The high water toppled large trees, cut new meanders, rearranged islands, scoured banks, and deposited thousands of tons of river cobble to create new point bars along its thirty three miles. The Paonia River Park and newly constructed trails received heavy damages from the high water. Impacts from the flooding consisted of the trail itself being washed out, rocks lining the trail displaced, debris scattered throughout the area, and caused the river to create an undercut along the bank, which then caused the trail to collapse.
Why monitor this area?
Due to the changes that have morphed the Park in the past year, we want to document the river's path in the time to come. This specific area also has significant wildlife value. We recently noticed the presence of new neighbors in the park, a pair of beavers. Since the flooding this past spring, we have not seen the evidence of beavers that previously lived there. With our Chronolog station, we hope to also document their changes to the area.
Thank you for helping WSCC document the power and beauty of our river!
We formed in 1977 to disseminate information about regional energy development and its impacts on the region’s natural resources. Today, our mission is to build an informed and engaged community to protect and enhance the lands, air, water and wildlife of the Western Slope. We envision landscapes defined by resilient ecological systems, where water management, agricultural practices, and recreation opportunities allow people and the environment to flourish.
Chronolog is a monitoring tool for parks, nature centers, wildlife organizations, schools, and museums worldwide. With over 100,000 contributors across 300 organizations, Chronolog is on a mission to engage communities with nature while recording important natural changes.
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