MARIPOSA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Catastrophic floodwaters covered the streets of Mariposa County on multiple occasions over the past three years, leaving a muddy mess and damaged infrastructure behind. On top of that, two major fires destroyed dozens of homes and kept visitors away from this community, which relies on tourism dollars.
"Oh it was bad. There were days during the fires that there was no one in town," said Jeanetta Phillips, manager of Mariposa Company Store.
But now the tides have turned. The County enjoyed calm conditions and the return of guests over the summer, and now it's set to receive nearly 6.3 million dollars from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration to make significant improvements to its commercial district. The funding is specifically due to the floods of 2017 and 2018.
"This grant typically comes with a 50% match. Well obviously in this rural county we weren't going to come up with a $3 million match. They were able to negotiate because of our situation a full grant, no match. It will be transformative for our town," said Mariposa County Supervisor Kevin Cann.
The money will be used to pave the side streets and repair the sidewalks within one block on each side of the main downtown corridor from 3rd Street to 12th Street. Crews will also fix underground utilities and rebuild the two main parking lots that are prone to flooding. That work will complement an upcoming Caltrans project to improve the stretch of Highway 140 that runs through the heart of Mariposa, which includes adding lighted crosswalks and accessible sidewalks.
"We're certainly going to do everything we possibly can to make it the most inviting downtown community for not only our residents but also the international visitors who come and join us every year," said the county's Director of Public Works and Transportation, Mike Healy.
Economic Development Specialist Tara Schiff met with business owners as part of the grant application process. She says they're excited about the potential revenue increases that come with better parking and easy walking routes. The County is anticipating more than 50 new jobs as shops, restaurants, and hotels expand to meet higher demands.
"I feel like we're finally being rewarded for all of the floods and fires that this is something very good and positive for our county, and it will create economic resiliency," Schiff adds.
Mariposa County has also received about $16 million in state and federal disaster relief funds on top of this latest grant. Officials say this new project will begin with gathering public input and going through the design and planning phases. They hope to begin the construction phase in about 18 months.