Written by Mark Reaman
Wednesday, 03 February 2010
Regionalization of recreation is the keyImproving the ice rink facilities in town and looking into building a campground just south of Crested Butte are preliminary recreation priorities for the Town Council. Those two items rose to the top of the Crested Butte council’s wish list in an early review of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.While the public surveys all point to an eventual swimming pool and indoor recreation center as the top two desires, the council wanted to tap projects that were attainable and timely. They will, however, ask the staff and consulting group conducting the master plan process to continue pursuing ways to eventually build a pool and rec center.
During a work session on Monday, February 1, the council listened to Brian Trusty of Pros Consulting lay out preliminary recommendations of the plan. The emerging big picture idea is to regionalize parks and recreation facilities and programs in the Upper East River Valley. That would require partnerships with the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte along with Crested Butte South.
Trusty said the obvious result of his research is that regionalizing the recreation programs would make things more efficient and people have indicated they are willing to pay. He said the town should take the lead in moving toward regionalization.
“One thing to keep in mind is that this regionalization should be broad enough to include more than just recreation. It should include things like the proposed Performing Arts Center in Mt. Crested Butte,” he said. “And part of the equation is to regionalize operation costs and not just construction costs of new facilities.”
According to the Pros Consulting surveys, the top priorities for the 4,000 people living in the north end of the valley include a swimming pool, an indoor rec center, an improved ice rink, an outdoor amphitheater, a campground, and non-traditional recreational amenities like the BMX bike jumps and the skate park in town.
But, Trusty said his estimate to build a swimming pool would be about $5 million. It would cost another $1.2 million to operate each year.
“The expense to build and operate a pool scares me,” admitted Mayor Leah Williams. “I wonder about the feasibility in a town the size of ours.”
Trusty said some of the operating costs could be covered with memberships and visits to the facility by tourists. “But you are still looking at $600,000 to $800,000 in subsidy you’d have to absorb somehow.”
Councilperson Roland Mason said that was simply not affordable. “If we could figure out how to get the costs to under $500,000 in annual subsidies I’d relook at it,” he said, “but right now I would rather see the money spent to provide more frequent transportation to and from Gunnison. Make it very convenient like every 45 minutes. They have the facilities if we can get the people down to use them.”
Councilperson Jim Schmidt said it seemed logical to get a mil levy out of the Gunnison Metropolitan Recreation District. “If we could figure out what it would take to get $500,000 a year from the district it could work,” he said. “Of course the problem is that there are other wants and needs out there, too, that would increase that cost.”
Responding to a question from Schmidt, Trusty said he was not aware of any municipal recreation facility that had failed once it was built. “Once it is there, people in the community usually can’t figure out what they did without it. But at the end of the day, these facilities depend on volume.”
Councilperson Dan Escalante said there could be a conflict if the community built a pool with the idea of attracting visitors when a more bare-bones pool would be fine with the locals. “I think we can figure something out over the next several years,” he suggested.
Schmidt said he was in favor of doing something that could be accomplished quickly. “I see improvements to the ice rink being affordable and something that saves maintenance costs,” he said. “It could happen in the next year or two. The other stuff could take a lot longer.” Councilpersons Wirsing, Wilson, Mason and Mayor Williams agreed with that sentiment. Councilperson Reed Betz said he’d go for a campground as a priority, as did Escalante.
“We are unfortunately looking at this whole thing through a lens shaded by hard economic times,” commented Williams.
The ice rink advocates had a meeting on Tuesday, February 2, and admitted the hard economic downturn had dried up their donor potential. “The private funding avenues for a rink are just gone,” said Bill Coburn of the East River Skating Association. He advocated having the town pursue regionalization, but wanted to see some hard figures of what it would cost in terms of property taxes to set up a regional recreation district for the north end of the valley.Read More
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