Recently, I received a letter dated Aug. 13, 2013, from Steamboat Springs Police Chief Joel Rae regarding an interest in developing a portion of Rita Valentine Park for a new police facility.
The concept of a police facility in Rita Valentine Park is unacceptable for the following reasons:
A provision of the city of Steamboat Springs Home Rule Charter, Section 13.6, informs us that all city-owned property may be sold at any time by a simple majority vote of the City Council except those lands considered public parks. Public park land only may be sold after a majority decision of the electorate. I suggest this protection also should apply to any significant land-use change for a public park.
Further, Section 13.7 of the Home Rule Charter defines that any land gifted to the city obligates the city to carry out the land-use wishes of the donors. Rita Valentine worked tirelessly with the owners of the Springs Development land (Curci Turner property) encouraging them ultimately to donate the land to the city as open space.
Rita Valentine was a visionary, gifted and dedicated individual. She served our city in many capacities, most notably as Steamboat Springs City Council president. Rita worked unstintingly on many community issues. Especially dear to her was the preservation of the land for open space, which now bears her name.
In recognition of her efforts, I had the honor as Steamboat Springs City Council president, to sponsor a city of Steamboat Springs ordinance creating Rita Valentine Park with a parkland land-use designation, which was approved by the City Council unanimously on July 26, 1994.
A rare quality of the city of Steamboat Springs is its wild urban open space. Prescient community leaders have followed Rita’s vision, acquiring and protecting urban open space. Some open space is intended to be developed, for example, with ball fields, ski trails or manicured grounds. However, other open space is intended to stay in a wild, natural and undeveloped condition.
Wild, urban open space buffers residential areas; it provides an opportunity to walk or ride a bike on a trail, seek solitude or share time with friends and pets; it provides natural habitat and safety for wildlife. Wild urban open space preserves a sense of nature in an urban environment.
I believe in offering alternative solutions when I oppose an idea, so here is my proposal:
There is one logical location for a new, main Steamboat Springs police facility: the former TIC property located close to the intersection of Routt County Road 129 and U.S. Highway 40.
This location meets several critical criteria: 1) situated near a main signaled intersection; 2) close proximity to the Routt County Jail, Courthouse, Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Highway Patrol and CDOT; 3) large parcel capable of housing a campus combining a police facility, potential fire station and emergency services with dormitory housing; 4) Existing buildings could provide facilities immediately with additional space for future development.
This would be the main campus for police and fire. For public convenience, safety and fast response time, there should be two additional small satellite stations: the existing public safety building at Ninth and Yampa streets modified and integrated with the re-development of Yampa Street for centralized downtown access; and a new, small addition to the mountain fire station to house a mountain police station.
We must insist on cooperation and coordination between these basic city services. Taxpayers should demand efficiency and economy of scale from our representatives concerning our limited resources.