Residents want theater, more trails | PostIndependent.com

Residents want theater, more trails

Dennis WebbPost Independent Staff

A performing arts venue, nature parks and walking and biking trails are some of the most unmet parks and recreation needs in Glenwood Springs, a survey has found.An amusement/admission/attraction tax would be the most preferable way to fund improvements to existing parks and recreation facilities and construction of new ones, city residents also say.Consultants provided the findings to Glenwood Springs City Council Thursday night. The city plans to use the survey data and findings from focus group discussions in developing a master parks and recreation plan for consideration by council later this year.Consultants sent surveys to 2,000 city households and received 439 responses.Ninety-four percent of respondents used city parks in the past year, and 77 percent rated park conditions as good or excellent. Davis Farrar, a local consultant, said no one in focus groups was unsatisfied with the parks and recreation department.”You guys get good ratings for that,” he said.However, those who were surveyed identified some priorities for improving parks, such as walking trails, restrooms and shady areas.”Trails, trails, trails – we heard a lot of people talk about that in Glenwood Springs,” Farrar said.Karon Badalamenti, a principal with the GreenPlay consulting firm, said she thinks trails are fairly abundant in Glenwood, but the problem is that many of them don’t connect to each other.The performing arts venue topped the list of unmet facility needs, and art, dance, music and performing arts are seen as the biggest recreation program needs, according to the survey results. Seventy-two percent of respondents said they were very or somewhat likely to use a performing arts center.Earlier this year, City Council decided to form a committee to explore the feasibility of building a community theater. When city voters approved funding of a community center, a theater was part of the proposal. But while backers of an ice rink and pool were able to find additional funding to help make those facilities possible, that hasn’t occurred in the case of the performing arts center.The survey explored residents’ views toward raising money that might help pay for a center and other parks and recreation needs. It found that 55 percent opposed the idea of a parks and recreation district that would be funded by a property tax.Twenty-six percent said they would most prefer funding facilities with an amusement/admission/attraction tax. Nineteen percent preferred a parks and recreation tax, and a sales tax and a property tax each were favored by 10 percent.However, an effort years ago to expand the city’s current lodging tax into a broader-based tourism tax failed at the ballot box, said Marianne Virgili, chief executive officer of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. She said one reason was that it would have applied to restaurants, and thus cost local residents as well as visitors.City Council member Chris McGovern worries that a broad-based admission tax could apply to local residents who purchase things such as season passes to local attractions.”I think a lot of people think the amusement/admission/attraction tax goes on tourists, not people who live here,” she said.Virgili said the tax’s reach would depend on how it was crafted, but the idea would require a lot of study before it would make sense to pursue it.Glenwood’s parks and recreation programs now recover 49 percent of their costs, with all the revenue coming in on the recreation side. Badalamenti said that’s a high rate of recovery compared to other communities, but could be improved upon, especially at a time of tight funding for governments.”Pay to play is becoming sort of the national agenda” for parks and recreation programs, she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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