Steamboat Springs Columnist Rob Douglas weighed in on the Triple Crown access to Emerald Park debate last Thursday with a number of false assumptions. I don't know where Rob got his information about what I said to City Council at their meeting on the subject, but he clearly wasn't in attendance.
Emerald Park was built for local youths because Triple Crown had taken over every other park in town that had ball fields and the locals were left with no place left to play. The residents of Pamela Lane asked for an alternative access to the park out of concern for traffic and parking issues. After much debate and consideration of a number of expensive options, the council decided to leave the access on Pamela Lane. It was a bad decision, and I am not the only member of that 1996 council to say so publicly. Indeed, in 2001 City Council gave direction to staff to bring the whole question of access back for reconsideration. By then, I had moved to Pamela Lane and took no part in giving that direction.
Recognizing that Emerald Park was for local youth sports and in an effort to appease the residence of Pamela Lane, the 1996 City Council unanimously made a very public promise that Emerald Park would be forever off limits to Triple Crown. That didn't stop Triple Crown from asking for access anyway and were told no in 1998 and again in 2002.
That history has been completely absent in this most recent effort by the Chamber Resort Association to gain access to Emerald Park for Triple Crown. Per standard city process, the Parks and Recreation Commission held a hearing on the topic to advise the City Council. Despite months of discussion between the city, the Chamber and Triple Crown, no notice of the meeting was given to either the residents of Pamela Lane or the board of directors at the Botanic Park. The official city staff report written for the Commission was written by Sandy Evans Hall, the applicant! Naturally, the history of this issue was not in the report. I pointed all of this out to the Parks and Recreation Commission, but they carried on as if it were standard operating procedure. I assure you, it didn't use to be.
When the issue went before City Council, once again the history of the park, previous efforts by the Chamber and Triple Crown to gain access to it, and the promises made by City Council and upheld by two subsequent councils were nowhere to be found in the staff report. I did not, as Rob Douglas accuses, "demand" that City Council uphold past promises. I did suggest that 12 years worth of history including the promises made by previous councils were relevant to the discussion and should not be ignored.
I believe the integrity of the city as a whole should be questioned when applicants are allowed to write staff reports. I am angry that there appears to be an effort to keep Pamela Lane residents and Botanic Park board members out of the discussion by not giving notice of meetings or in the case of this last City Council meeting, four days notice. When is the Chamber and its allies at City Hall going to realize that it's not just the people that profit from Steamboat Springs that deserve a place at the table but also the people that live here?
One more thought. According to the information in the City Council packet, Triple Crown is scheduled to bring 825 teams to the area this summer. Are we to believe that Triple Crown will pack all of them to a new location if they are told they can't have Emerald Park for 12 days? This is about getting a foot in the door. This is about the next contract extension that will require full use of Emerald Park.