mock-up of new Garfield County Education Center

New Garfield County Education Center planned

CSU Extension and the county partnering for community education space

February 10, 2020

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – A 12,000 square foot Garfield County Education Center is planned inside an existing building on Railroad Avenue in Rifle, adjacent to the Rifle Creek Trail and near the fairgrounds. The building is at 937 Railroad Ave. It will transform from an empty warehouse to a two-story range, shop and expo space with room for the community to train on wood shop, metal works, cooking, gardening, quilting, sewing, robotics and much more.

Visioning for the main features of the education center include a flexible event space with six learning areas containing flexible partitions that can be moved to create different sized spaces. It will have three functional kitchens – a teaching one in view of two learning kitchen portals, for training the community in the Cooking Matters program, cottage foods sessions, and for a staging area for caterers serving events held in the training spaces.

Garfield County purchased the building and three acres of land for $1.9 million in July of 2019, and it is currently empty, awaiting the renovation. It is part of the county’s five-year plan, developed by the Garfield County Commissioners. Construction is expected to begin as early as this spring, when the county will open up a request for proposals for community bids on the renovation.

The county is also providing funding for the architectural planning for the building, and has budgeted $400,000 for renovations to complete the education center, with the rest of the funding planned to come from grant sources and local private funding in contributions to the CSU Foundation.

CSU Extension County Director and 4-H Youth Development Agent Carla Farrand is in high gear, launching an extensive fundraising campaign for the project. She is approaching a number of western slope and statewide foundations with large grant applications for the education center. She explained to the Garfield County Board of Commissioners today that she hopes to garner grants to support the full remodeling and potentially some programming for the facility from grants, and she has already raised $72,000 towards the second phase of the project. That will be the building an outdoor classroom adjoining the open space at the Rifle Creek Trail, so that students can learn in both open areas.

“Since I have been here in Garfield County our program has grown four-fold, and in fact, we now have as many as 150 volunteers across the county,” said Farrand. “Being able to work with people who have the same passion to bring a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) space to Garfield County is really a dream come true – I have dreamed of a space like this since I was a volunteer in 4-H.”

Farrand has also obtained a $400 grant from the Williams Foundation to purchase STEAM equipment for the education center, such as saws and welding equipment. She is working with the Western Colorado Community Foundation in Grand Junction to develop philanthropist interest in the new center in Rifle.

The current warehouse is a single floor, so a second level will be added in the renovation. Andrea Korber, architect, owner and principal, Land+Shelter, an architectural firm in Carbondale, has developed plans for the inside of the education center.

“Creating a whole building dedicated to a ‘maker’ space for hands on STEAM education feels right now like what our county needs,” she said. “It feels like the kind of thing that might be a dream space to a child; I feel like we are getting to design a ‘kitchen of the mind’.”

Her colleague, Andi Duroux, job captain of Land+Shelter, is what she herself terms a “graduate” of 4-H in Garfield County.

“For me, this is really personal, because I couldn’t raise livestock as a youth since I lived in town, so I did other projects and global citizenship – this center will allow projects for all 4-H kids, for those in town as well,” she said.

She is a second generation 4-H learner, and added, “Looking at this building, it will be a fantastic program, such an amazing resource for kids following that path; teaching life skills that you do not necessarily get in school – how to make your life better.”

The center will not only reuse the current building, but also its existing foundation, and parking lot. It will access safe routes between schools and the fairgrounds, and easy access for youth and adults to learn in.

It will also utilize a high-efficiency mechanical system with a potential offset solar array built into the design.

“We are making the building as energy efficient as we possibly can,” said Korber, “and we are in discussions with an energy company and CLEER (Clean Energy Economy for the Region) from the beginning, and we are working to get as close to net zero energy as we can with this project. We are increasing the energy efficiency of the building and putting as much renewable energy as we can on site.”

Donations for the project can be made online, and more information is available at Garfield County Education Center.