Steamboat Springs Pamela Lane residents and three former members of the Steamboat Springs City Council on Wednesday night told their city's Parks and Recreation Commission it still isn't time to allow Triple Crown to play on the ballfields at Emerald Park.
Former council member Meg Bentley summed up the sentiments of many in the audience when she issued a request to the city staff and the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Yes. It's a city park and the expansion could benefit the community by bringing more visitors to town.
Yes. There is room for more players on those fields.
No. It shouldn't be allowed until a new access to the park is constructed.
No. Triple Crown never should be allowed to play games in the park.
376 total votes.
“Don't bring this issue up to the public again until we have a second access (to Emerald Park) in place,” she said.
For years, Pamela Lane residents and some other community members have opposed Triple Crown's request to expand onto the ballfields, in part, because the only vehicular access to Emerald Park runs in front of homes on the residential street.
Valerie White, a homeowner on Pamela Lane, described the road as a “highway” during the busy summer months.
“People drive crazy down that road while an 11-year-old is riding her bike,” White said, adding she fears the congestion and traffic could someday lead to an accident.
To help slow down traffic, several speed bumps are deployed on the road in the summer.
The latest discussion about the Emerald ballfields was spurred by a new request from Triple Crown to use the fields so that it can add about 60 teams to its Mountain Magic baseball tournament during three weekends in June.
Steamboat Springs Chamber CEO Tom Kern and Triple Crown representative Jason McCoy told the Parks and Recreation Commission that a lack of field space here is causing Triple Crown to turn away several teams from the upcoming tournament.
“We're very sensitive to the request to use Emerald Park,” McCoy said. “We've brought this idea up before, and we certainly understand (the concerns of) having the one access point, but we're willing to come up with a parking plan in terms of trying to limit the amount of traffic that goes up and down the lane there.”
He said teams could use shuttle buses and carpool to minimize the traffic impact.
With the exception of the four ballfields at Emerald, Triple Crown uses all of the city's seven baseball diamonds as well as fields in Hayden, Craig and Oak Creek.
The City Council here has on more than one occasion denied Triple Crown's request to use the ballfields at Emerald, most recently in 2008.
But the requests have stirred up some contentious debates.
Some community members see the benefit of opening up the city park to other uses, including one that has a big economic impact on the city, while others want to avoid more traffic and noise at the park.
The latest request from Triple Crown has thrust the issue of the troublesome access to the park back into the spotlight.
The city has for years had a desire to create a new access to the park that doesn't run through the heart of a residential neighborhood.
Plans for the new access already are drawn up but have been delayed because of some tedious negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad about a new crossing.
“It would be lovely if I could tell you we could start construction in the spring, but our engineers in the city (are telling me) there isn't much hope that will be the case,” City Manager Deb Hinsvark said.
The city has budgeted at least $1.4 million next year to finalize the design of the new access and possibly start construction.
Council member Scott Myller told the audience the current council is resolved to see the project go forward.
“We have told our staff to get (the new access) done. It is in the capital improvement program,” Myller said. “I really do think the political will on our council right now is there to fix the Pamela Lane access. Hopefully, this issue doesn't go away.”
Parks and Recreation Commission members who offered opinions on the proposal said the access should be addressed before any future uses are considered.
Following the meeting, Kern said the public comments made it clear the new access will have to be addressed before discussions continue about opening the ballparks to other uses.
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Director search narrows
The city of Steamboat Springs is getting closer to hiring the next leader of its Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department.
Anne Small, the city's director of general services, said Wednesday that the city has identified four finalists for the high-profile position.
If all four pass background and reference checks, the finalists will be invited early next month to meet with city staff, community members and local recreation groups.
"We're very pleased with the caliber of the candidates," Small said.
The city received 140 applications for the director job.
The Parks and Recreation job in Steamboat is unique in that the department oversees several amenities, including the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, Howelsen Hill, the Howelsen Ice Arena and the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.
The city’s parks division oversees 28 parks totaling more than 1,000 acres.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10