Residents oppose ball fields

Open house held to gather input on city park plan

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Most of the 30 residents who gathered to weigh in on a proposed city park west of town said they don't want to see ball fields built on the land.

At a city open house Wednesday night, audience members said they would support preserving part of the 18 acres as wetlands and would like to see a leash-free dog park and a skate park. Wednesday was the first time the city held a meeting to gather input on turning an old sewer lagoon into a city park.

"We haven't made a decision on what is going in there," City Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Director Chris Wilson told the group.

The lagoon sits southwest of the Routt County Jail and is almost adjacent to the land proposed for the Routt County judicial center.

Two months ago, the city received a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to help fund the planning of what the city calls the Bear River Parcel. The city hired Mountain West Design Group LLC to begin that planning process and hopes to have a master plan before the City Council by early December.

The city and Mountain West heard clear direction from neighbors and other community members that ball fields are not wanted. Neighbors had concerns about parking, lighting, Triple Crown events and noise that often come with ball fields.

Fred Fuller said when the city looks at building ball fields, it has to consider parking, which takes up valuable space.

"There are going to be cars coming out our ears," Fuller said.

But like many of the other residents at the meeting, Fuller said he was not opposed to having open fields for a dog park, Frisbee or neighborhood pickup games.

Other community members questioned whether the city should build a park on what they saw as some of the last areas of wetlands.

Buck Erickson, whose land is adjacent to the property, said the wetland area is the last land to soak up the poisons that run off from the highways and parking lots before they go into the river.

"I am really concerned we could lose the whole thing to these ball fields," he said.

Susan Otis asked the city to keep in mind community surveys, which have indicated preserving open space in large parcels as one of the community's highest priorities.

"That should really help drive the decision. We should not ignore what the consensus of the community has been," Otis said.

More than a dozen people showed up in support of building a skate park. Users of the Howelsen Hill skate park said they would like to see a concrete park similar to ones in Boulder, Denver and Silverthorne. They said the Howelsen Hill park is heavily used, can be dangerous and is not well designed.

Wilson said the city's capital improvement plan does not have any funding for the park in the next five years. But with a master plan, the city has a greater chance of securing funding from grants and building private partnerships.

The city plans to hold another public meeting at the end of September, develop an early draft to bring to the public at the end of October and present a draft to the City Council in December. Under the GOCO grant guidelines, the city must have a master plan completed and submitted to the state agency by 2004.

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