SHERIDAN — While polo, stream restoration and a nonprofit dedicated to downtown preservation and prosperity may seem like an odd match at first, Bonnie Gregory, project manager for the Downtown Sheridan Association, doesn’t think it is at all.
“It’s all part of our heritage,” Gregory said.
Polo has been here a long time. Downtown Sheridan has been here a long time. And, Big Goose and Little Goose creeks have meandered below the Bighorn Mountains for, well, a long time.
Viewed that way, hosting a polo match to raise funds for the DSA to restore area streams seems logical.
That is just what will happen at the fourth Downtown Sheridan Association Goose Creek Cup at the Flying H Polo Club on Sunday. The evening will include the highest-rated polo game played in the nation this summer as well as long ball contests, divot stomping, children’s activities, raffles, an after party and food and drink for purchase. Entrance is $10 per carload, and the gates open at 3 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s a unique fundraiser, an out-of-the-box fundraiser,” Gregory said.
The Skey Johnston family and Flying H Polo Club first chose the DSA as a benefactor for the proceeds of a High Goal Polo Match in 2007. The Goose Creek Cup was held again in 2008 and 2012, each match raising more than $10,000 for a variety of stream restoration projects on the Goose creeks.
This year, with Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Goose Creek Stream Restoration Project complete — which included stream enhancements in Kendrick Park and South Park — funds will go toward the planning, education and marketing process for a major overhaul at the confluence of Big Goose and Little Goose creeks near First Street and Main Street and Mill Park.
Although actual construction on the project could be as many as 10 years out, the DSA has big plans for the area currently dominated by concrete chutes installed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1960s for flood control, DSA Executive Director Stacie Coe said.
Straightening, lowering and confining creeks was standard practice at that time, but it has since been discovered that doing so eliminates natural channel features (riffles, pools, etc.) that promote sediment transportation and fish habitat, leading to routine deposits that must be bulldozed out by the city each year, Coe said.
“They’re not fish friendly, they’re not duck friendly, they’re not dog friendly and they’re not people friendly,” Coe said about the concrete chutes at the confluence of the Goose creeks. “And they’re ugly.”
Coe said the DSA decided to start with stream enhancements in Kendrick, South and North parks to prove to the Army Corps of Engineers that the DSA and city of Sheridan are dedicated to stream restoration and capable of raising needed funds and completing projects. The DSA is attempting to get the Army Corps of Engineers on board with rehabilitation of the concrete chute section as early as possible in order to expedite and enhance the complex project.
The ultimate vision for the section includes a river walk along First Street complete with benches, flowers, “pocket parks” inside each bend of Little Goose Creek and boutiques and restaurants along the pedestrian area on the north side of the stream. Some of the concrete walls and beds of the chutes will be removed and others will be enhanced to be more aesthetically pleasing. Pocket parks will also be added at the confluence of the streams at Mill Park.
“I feel like downtown is the heartbeat of Sheridan, but it’s still part of the community as a whole, so we need to make the whole community beautiful,” Coe said about the DSA’s commitment to stream enhancement. “It’s all tied in, and it’s all important. If all of Sheridan isn’t thriving and beautiful, the downtown can’t be thriving and beautiful.”
Downtown Sheridan Association Goose Creek Cup
Where: Polo H Club on Bird Farm Road in Big Horn
When: Gates open at 3 p.m., game starts at 5 p.m. Sunday
Admission: $10 per carload
After party: 7 p.m. Sunday at the Big Horn Equestrian Center
Info: Downtown Sheridan Association, 672-8881