Friday, April 8, 2011

Fishing Frenzy canceled due to looming government shutdown

COMMERCE CITY – Think the potential federal government shutdown doesn’t have a local impact? Tell that to more than 400 children and their families who planned to attend Commerce City’s fourth annual Fishing Frenzy Saturday morning at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

If a Fiscal Year 2011 budget is not in place by midnight, the Refuge will join other national parks and public lands in closing public facilities. Late Thursday night U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials informed the city they were instructed not to report to work this weekend. City staff worked with event partners to develop a “Plan B” – despite being hopeful a deal could be reached.

“An important part of this event is for children to have a positive experience that they otherwise wouldn’t get living in the urban area,” said City Manager Jerry Flannery. “The last thing Commerce City wants is for over 400 kids to show up and be greeted by locked gates. In canceling now, we’ve tried to balance the waiting game with the need to provide ample community notice.”

Each year the free event draws hundreds of children from across the metro area, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience this sport. Participants not only can fish and win prizes, but learn tips and tricks from professional anglers and participate in other family-friendly activities. Even “big” kids who love to fish sign up with their families because the Refuge allows live bait to be used for the event, something not allowed at the Refuge when the fishing season officially opens on April 16.

Funded mostly by private grant dollars and donations, this is a signature event not only for Commerce City, but the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Reunion Metro District and Bass Pro Shops. Fortunately the event will be rescheduled, pending Refuge availability, with most of the grant funds and six months of planning activities used to deliver a quality experience for metro area youth.

“This is a good reminder of how federal decisions (or lack thereof) affect local governments,” added Flannery. “The Fishing Frenzy is a great opportunity to showcase one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the country right in the metro area’s backyard. Commerce City and its residents are fortunate to have this resource and look forward to sharing it with others very soon during the rescheduled event.”