Crown Mountain Rec District moves cautiously on rec center despite lobbying to advance idea | PostIndependent.com

Crown Mountain Rec District moves cautiously on rec center despite lobbying to advance idea

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
The concrete path in Crown Mountain Park is popular with pedestrians in the midvalley.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

2020 CROWN MOUNTAIN BUDGET

Total: $1.84 million

- General fund: $910,276

- Debt service: $457,622

- Capital projects: $474,000

Everyone from the head of a youth soccer league to a senior citizens advocate is lobbying Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District to pursue an indoor facility.

At the recreation district’s board of directors meeting Wednesday night, six people urged pursuit of an indoor facility while one person objected during public comment.

Mary Kenyon, who works on senior services issues in the valley, said there are about 1,600 senior citizens living in western Eagle County and 1,400 living in Garfield County between Carbondale and the county line near El Jebel. Research shows many feel lonely and socially isolated, she said. A contributing factor in the midvalley is lack of adequate space to congregate, according to Kenyon. An indoor recreation center would remedy that.

“Please give us some place to go recreate,” Kenyon urged the board.

“We’ve spent some money on feasibility and there’s this perception (through a newspaper article) that we’re going after this rec center again. It’s important to me that the community knows that’s not the case. We just did some research.” — Nate Grinzinger, Crown Mountain

Rod Woelfle, director of the Roaring Fork Valley Soccer Club, told the district board the group has grown from 150 to 500 kids in recent years, in large part because Crown Mountain Park has provided adequate outdoor space. The kids would benefit tremendously from indoor fields that would potentially be part of a field house and recreation center, he said.

The issue of an indoor facility wasn’t actually on the board’s agenda, but recent events thrust it into the limelight. The district has funded a $13,500 feasibility study and approved $11,500 for conceptual drawings of an indoor field house this summer and fall. Crawford Properties, owners of the El Jebel Mobile Home Park and surrounding lands, offered a site for a possible facility. The Crawfords have vacant land near the El Jebel fire station.

The Crown Mountain board hasn’t committed future funds to the facility. The district says it is just conducting research.

Missouri Heights resident Bob Schultz objected last month to the expenditures on the study and drawings because he perceives it as a misuse of district funds. Midvalley voters rejected an indoor recreation facility by a 79%-to-21% margin in a November 2013 election.

Voters narrowly approved a property tax increase for the recreation district in May 2018. District officials said extra revenue was needed to properly maintain and operate the outdoor Crown Mountain Park. Executive director Becky Wagner specifically said during the campaign that no funds would be spent on an indoor recreation facility.

Schultz contends taxpayers were hoodwinked. If it was known that funds would be spent studying an indoor facility, the tax hike wouldn’t have passed, he contended.

Midvalley resident Tom O’Keefe echoed that sentiment at Wednesday’s board meeting.

“It’s a totally reckless use of funds,” he said. He added that he “never expected one dime” to be spent on an indoor facility based on the last election campaign.

Midvalley resident Bill Reynolds, a former director with the recreation district, countered at the meeting that the district is taking the proper action by studying the idea. The outdoor park is “almost useless” five months out of the year.

Reynolds suggested that the recreation district board boosts the amount of money in the 2020 budget for outreach and education to inform the public about what it’s doing and why an indoor facility is necessary.

Wagner concurred that both the consulting and public relations funds could be boosted. The district could use help from an outside firm keeping the public educated about what’s going on with the recreation district, she said. It cannot easily be handled in-house.

“We’re a small team here,” she said.

Nate Grinzinger, the district’s recreation coordinator, said public outreach would be helpful on the indoor recreation center issue.

“We’ve spent some money on feasibility, and there’s this perception (through the media report) that we’re going after this rec center again,” Grinzinger told the board, “It’s important to me that the community knows that’s not the case. We just did some research.”

There also is a misperception that district officials lied to taxpayers, he continued.

“It’s important to me that they know that’s not the case,” Grinzinger said. “Maybe we look at PR money to help with that so we paint the right picture.”

The board of directors voted unanimously to approve the 2020 budget with an increase to $15,000 from $7,500 for the public relations budget and to $100,000 from $80,000 in the consulting budget.

The district has so many capital improvement projects at Crown Mountain Park underway or in planning that outside expertise is needed, the board and staff agreed.

“We have so many things coming up right now, it’s important to make the right decisions,” Wagner said.

Board members Bonnie Scott, Tim Power Smith, Kirk Schneider, Jennifer Riffle and Robert Hubbell approved a 2020 budget with slightly more than $1.84 million in total expenditures. That is a 19 percent increase over the anticipated 2019 expenditures of $1.54 million.

The 2020 budget includes operating expenditures of $910,276; debt service of $457,622; and capital improvements of $474,000.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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