Steamboat Parks and Recreation commissioners want to meet with Routt County officials to discuss prospect of parks and rec district


— Parks and Recreation Commission members in Steamboat Springs want to meet with Routt County officials soon to gauge how they feel about a potential regional parks and recreation taxing district as well as any other alternative ways of funding recreation amenities.

The commissioners also resolved to continue learning more about the districts that typically use a property tax to fund such amenities.

The direction came Wednesday night after the commission learned more about how such districts are funded and formed.

Denver-based attorney Dee Wisor talked for about an hour about districts and the logistics behind how they come to be.

Wisor has experience in public financing and bonding.

The city of Steamboat Springs' attorney and finance director were present and taking notes during Wisor's talk.

Commissioners have stressed their research at this time purely is for educational purposes.

Wisor said a parks and recreation district starts with community members creating a service plan for a district that would need to be approved by the governing bodies for a region, such as a city council and board of county commissioners.

It also would involve a successful petition and an election.

"The recreation district can be a powerful tool," Wisor said.

But he also cautioned that just like a city recreation department's reliance on sales tax, a recreation district's reliance on property tax can distress the budget in an economic downturn.

He also said many of the recreation districts in Colorado were formed decades ago.

That could mean the creation of one here could be more complicated.

"If you want to get more revenue and not change the governance (of the parks and recreation department), there are other ways to do it," Wisor said.

Commissioner Jenette Settle said it sounded "great" to have a parks and recreation district but wanted to know more about the startup costs.

Wisor said the initial stages, including an election, could cost anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000.

A new district also could entail some added costs for parks and recreation management with the need for its own human resources person, auditor and lawyer.

Parks and recreation departments, including Steamboat's, have these employees who work across multiple departments.

Commissioner Frank Dolman said that before the group continues to look at alternative funding mechanisms for this city's parks and recreation amenities, it first needs to clearly outline what the problem is.

"What's not getting done?" he asked city staff and his fellow commissioners.

Answers mentioned by city staff and the commissioners included such things as a lower amount of trail and open space maintenance than other communities in the state, aging infrastructure at Howelsen Hill, the desire for a recreation center here and the potential to acquire new land for future park amenities right now.

"There is a list, and a long list," Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department Director John Overstreet said.

Wednesday's presentation from Wisor marked the second time in recent months this city's Parks and Recreation Commission has hosted a discussion about recreation districts.

In June, Steve Russell, the executive director of the West Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, talked to commissioners about how a community effort to build a swimming pool in Eagle 34 years ago evolved into a countywide recreation district that has brought millions of dollars' worth of new parks, recreation centers and ice rinks to Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10


Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

The history of the West Eagle rec district is not all happiness and consensus. There was a long period where Gypsum saw their contributions primarily going to benefit a different community. And West Eagle is a fairly compact area so it was easier to claim that everyone benefited from improvements in another city because it wasn't too far to use.

But I think trying to do a countywide district here is going to get zero votes outside of SB because SB has expressed zero interest in rec facilities in other parts of the county.

Right now SB rec could cut a deal for ice time at OC's ice rink for hockey practices or such in return for paying for some modest improvements. But SB would rather talk about the need for another rink.

People in SB are so SB centric that the organizers of a what was claimed to be a regional meeting on disability issues failed to consider access for disabled outside of SB. So a disabled advocate in Oak Creek couldn't attend because he had no way of getting there and back. Worst part is he spent half a day trying to work it out and had every agency suggest to him that he try a different agency. Apparently, none of the local agencies ever talk to each other and have any idea of what the others do. There is a Routt County van in Oak Creek that delivers people to lunch at the community center. Could that bus be used to bring disabled people in Oak Creek to the meeting? Well, the agency whose name is on the bus, said they didn't know anything about having a bus in OC.


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