07.14.20

Gardner touts bill that can help Runyon, other local projects

Hours before the first pitch of the summer at the Runyon Sports Complex, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner stood in the shadows of Tony Andenucio Field to announce that he wants to partner with Pueblo in an effort to open funding streams that would help local recreation projects, including the expansion of the historic ballpark.

The Colorado Republican lawmaker said the passage of his bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act last month protects public lands across the country and also will could help outdoor recreation facilities such as Runyon. He said resources can go to all sorts of other local projects as well.

“I am excited to learn more about the work you are doing and the vision you have for the county and the city and how we can partner and be helpful in getting these resources out of Washington, (D.C.) and into Pueblo,” Gardner said.

“I think a lot of people think that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is only used for things like the Sand Dunes National Park, Baca National Wildlife Refuge, the Baca Ranch, but it’s more than that,” Gardner said.

The bill, which cleared the Senate on a 73-25 vote last month with both Colorado senators in the yes column, is a major legislative win for the Republican from Yuma.

The next stop is the Democratic-led House.

“It combines two incredibly important programs -- the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Restore our Parks Act,” Gardner said.

Gardner was joined Monday by Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz, City Councilman Dennis Flores and Rod Slyhoff, president of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce.

Flores said through the act in the ’90s and early 2000s when he was on the District 60 School Board, the district was able to build 10 parks attached to elementary schools.

Flores spoke about the future expansion of the Historic Akransas Riverwalk of Pueblo as well as other shovel-ready projects including an aquatic center and potentially a recreation center.

“There are lots of possibilities here and we are really anxious to talk to you,” Flores said.

Gardner said $900 million a year will be turned back to the state and local governments and urban parks to create more outdoor recreational activities.

The senator said the Land and Water Conservation Fund provided about $100,000 to Runyon Field in the 1990′s.

“This is a beneficiary of something Land and Water Conservation Fund did nearly 30 years ago. And with the full and permanent funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we are going to be doing a whole heck of a lot more work just like this across the state of Colorado,” Gardner said.

Ortiz said Runyon exudes greatness.

“If you go back a couple decades, the improvements that have been made and the maintenance of this field has been extraordinary,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said the county, which owns Runyon, has big plans for the facility through the 2016 1A ballot measure that made funds available for the expansion of Runyon as well as a list of 20-plus other projects within the county.

“We are currently in the process of looking at RFPs (request for proposals) from design teams to see which way we expand, but either way we are going to need a lot of support across the board from all government entities to ensure that we can acquire the land an build this facility,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said he hopes construction on the expansion can begin next year.

“I want to thank the senator for a major accomplishment in funding and securing permanent funding, not just for facilities like this, but for facilities across Colorado. The bipartisan way that you have done that is a major accomplishment.”

Gardner introduced the bill with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Va., to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the approximately $20 billion maintenance backlog on federal lands.

 

By: Anthony Mestas

The Pueblo Chieftain