Our View: Park changes needed OK from council

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Editorial Board, April 2010 to Aug. 8, 2010

  • Suzanne Schlicht, publisher
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Blythe Terrell, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Towny Anderson, community representative
  • Tatiana Achcar, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— For being such a peaceful parcel of open space, Rita Valentine Park sure knows how to cause an uproar. The 40-acre chunk of land off Anglers Drive — and an adjoining 35-acre parcel also used by residents — is treasured by nearby homeowners for its trails and wildlife habitat. It’s also an obvious target for community groups looking for space for their activities of choice.

Time and again, those competing interests have resulted in contentious city Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council meetings. One group wants to keep the land largely as is, the others want consideration for wider use of a public park.

We’re generally in favor of using the city’s parks to the benefit of all residents, not just those in a surrounding neighborhood or two. But given the history of contention surrounding Rita Valentine Park, it was premature for the Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department and the Parks and Recreation Commission to sign off on a new disc golf course at the park without consent from the City Council. The move appeared to be a direct affront to the public process and line of authority.

Less than a year ago, a previous City Council unanimously and indefinitely postponed action on a Rita Valentine Park master plan because of dissent and controversy about proposed changes to the space. Yet, without any consultation with the council, the Parks and Recreation Department proceeded with implementation of one component of the tabled master plan.  

Not surprisingly, the disc golf course now being used at Rita Valentine Park has come under fire from a few neighbors. We’re certainly less sympathetic to the desire of some to keep the open space a relatively exclusive enclave for adjacent homeowners than we are to the notion that a parcel that is almost always the subject of controversy is being altered without sign-off from our elected officials.

It might seem that requiring council approval for the creation of a relatively low-impact activity such as disc golf is big government at its worst. And that might be true were it not for the history of controversy surrounding everything and anything related to Rita Valentine Park. The design plan the council tabled in August 2009 initially called for facilities, a road and parking lots but was scaled down to include only dog parks and other low-intensity improvements, including a disc golf course. Nearby residents predictably said they prefer the untouched open space. The Parks and Recreation Department now has created a new controversy that gets to the heart of policy and public process.  

Perhaps it’s time for the city’s elected officials to decide about the long-term benefits of the entire community as they pertain to usage of Rita Valentine Park. And maybe the disc golf course issue provides the impetus for the decision to occur. But what’s clear is that without official council action, any move to alter the state of Rita Valentine Park was bound to become mired in the same turf war that has plagued other park proposals in recent years. What also is clear is at the very least, the public perception is that the Parks and Recreation Department ignored an official City Council action and proceeded without authorization.  

For that reason, City Council President Cari Hermacinski was correct last week to say that there was a “breakdown in the process” and that the disc golf course decision deserved a more substantial public hearing. That hearing should take place before the disc golf course makes a permanent home in Rita Valentine Park.

Comments

Zac Brennan 4 years ago

I imagine the Anglers Drive neighbors feel as if their input was ignored. It seems the West Acres folks received the same treatment when the city placed a road through their peaceful green space. 'Can't fight city hall'....I guess.

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Gregory Dalsis 4 years ago

Disc Golf is good. Good for me. Good for the kids. Affordable. Healthy. Fun. Low-impact (based on historical evidence of existing sites)(hard evidence)(not fears). We DO need a City Course. This is the Place, Rita Valentine Disc Golf Course. Give us a year, let us show you our RESPECT.

SADL member '09 & '10 Steamboat Area Disc League

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Gregory Dalsis 4 years ago

I have met many local neighbors of Rita Valentine Park. They were all very nice and supportive of the New Rita Valentine Disc Golf Course. Barry, Heather, Stu & his son, and many others have expressed their support and enthusiasm of having a course in "their backyard". Barry even joined our club by paying $20.00. He received the #34 tag. SADL Club members exchange tags, winner gets the lowest tag. The money will go to baskets at Rita Valentine Disc Golf Course. Call me @ 846-2993 if you would like to contribute by joining our club. $20.00/year membership. Stu & his son even rode their bikes to the course. I have removed paint balls, golf balls, and tons of garbage by the hilltop connector. We care. I am sure in a year, you will see our positive impact at Rita Valentine Park.

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runnerbikerdriver44 4 years ago

GredD-You do make some very valid points, and I would love to see the idea of earned respect being put to use up in that area. I do, however, have to side with the residents of Anglers, and say that it needs to be brought to a vote. This is their backyard too, and when the dog park was put in, the number of off leash dogs roaming the neighborhood increased. It is frustrating to spend time in the area and watch owners let their dogs off leash on the road, and have no control over them when there is oncoming traffic. Or running in to yards that don't belong to them, chase a deer, etc. I don't even live there, but I can imagine dealing with that on a daily basis would be bothersome. While the disc golfers may be more respectful than some of the dog owners I've seen, Anglers residents, along with the one you talked to, need to be offered a chance to have input and express concerns.

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