Softball players play under the lights Thursday evening at the Howelsen Hill ballfields. A survey of community members found most feel the park is well maintained but its facilities and infrastructure are out of date.

Photo by Scott Franz

Softball players play under the lights Thursday evening at the Howelsen Hill ballfields. A survey of community members found most feel the park is well maintained but its facilities and infrastructure are out of date.

Howelsen Hill survey reveals most think park is well maintained but facilities aren't up to date

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— The city of Steamboat Springs now has 14 pages worth of suggestions, dreams, complaints and compliments about Howelsen Hill to mull over.

And these pages are just what community members wrote in the free response section of a 15-question survey the city recently sent out to help guide the future of the park.

One person urged the addition of zip lines.

"Don't make it too fancy," another person wrote.

A couple said "leave it as is."

And several more asked for a second sheet of ice to skate on.

If there was a big consensus from the survey questions and the attached 180 additional comments the city received, it was that the community members who took the survey care about the future of the park and overwhelmingly think it is well maintained, safe and worthy of future improvements.

On the other hand, a majority of the nearly 600 respondents said the infrastructure and facilities are outdated.

The city of Steamboat Springs ordered the survey to help aid in the development of a new master plan for its most diverse park.

The answers to the questions provide a snapshot of what some community members think they'd like to see at the park in the future and how it all should be funded.

Asked how more revenue at the park should be generated to improve programming, 66 percent of respondents said enhanced food and beverage concessions were the ticket.

Increasing sponsorships was the second most popular idea followed by the construction of more facilities to generate revenue.

Increasing fees was the least popular idea, though a vast majority of the survey respondents said they didn't think current fees for programs and rentals at the park were too high.

Just more than half of those who participated in the survey indicated they had children.

These results, along with interviews with the park's stakeholders and a series of public forums, all will be used to make recommendations for the park's future.

Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department Director John Overstreet said he's found many commonalities between the survey results and what he's heard in person from the park's users.

“It is obvious from all the meetings and all the discussions we have had how central Howelsen is to the community,” Overstreet said. “They love the park. They think it's well maintained, but they think some of the facilities need to be improved.”

Overstreet shared a draft analysis of the survey results Thursday afternoon.

All of the results and comments from the survey will be presented at an upcoming Parks and Recreation Commission meeting in August.

Asked to prioritize a long list of possible facility improvements, most survey respondents said they wanted to see improved conditions on the ski hill with better lifts, better lighting and a terrain park.

The second most popular improvement was an indoor recreation and teen youth center with such things as an indoor court space for basketball, volleyball, pickleball and a climbing wall.

Most respondents ranked horse stable improvements, more tennis courts and a second sheet of ice for outdoor skating near the bottom of the list of suggested improvements at Howelsen.

One of the bigger challenges in the master planning process will be the funding of any potential improvements.

Asked how the city should fund park renovations and development, 35 percent of respondents said they should be supported by the creation of a regional or county parks and recreation district.

“I just think people are looking for ways to fund things in a more regional perspective,” Overstreet said, noting the park's ability to draw people from many miles away.

Only 15 percent of respondents said they would not support any increase in funding at Howelsen.

Support for a parks and recreation district was followed by support for a dedicated stream of sales tax revenue for the park.

What was the biggest barrier for those not using the park?

About a third of survey respondents said they belonged to other groups that provide recreation like the Old Town Hot Springs, while 29 percent said it was a lack of amenities or other reasons.

The survey results do come with a caveat.

The city originally had hoped to have the results be statistically significant with a low margin of error by sending it to a random sampling of 400 residents.

After a low initial response rate, the survey was opened to anyone who was able to click a link online.

Therefore, the survey theoretically could have been taken multiple times by someone if they used multiple computers and IP addresses.

Overstreet said the next step in the planning process will be to take the survey results as well as all the feedback he's gotten from the public and Howelsen users to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Aug. 27.

The public is invited to attend the meeting and talk more about the plan for the park.

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

Survey highlights

•97 percent feel safe when visiting the park

General feelings about the park

•93 percent feel they have good access to the park

•88 percent support efforts to improve Howelsen

•84 percent feel park is well maintained

•79 percent feel that locals can use the park when they choose

•30 percent feel facilities at the park are up to date

•23 percent feel fees for programs/activities are too high

•10 percent feel fees for rentals are too high

Capital funding preferences

•35 percent prefer the establishment of a regional or county parks and recreation district to provide long-term funding for capital and operations

•22 percent prefer establishing a dedicated sales tax for Howelsen Park operations and development

•15 percent prefer borrowing money to make improvements and pay back over 20 years

•15 percent do not support any increase in funding

•7 percent prefer a dedicated property tax for Howelsen operations and development

•7 percent prefer instituting a property tax to fund capital projects and park maintenance

Comments

Scott Wedel 4 months, 2 weeks ago

"On the other hand, a majority of the nearly 600 respondents said the infrastructure and facilities are outdated."

But not at all clear that the people say that is a problem that needs to be fixed.

“I just think people are looking for ways to fund things in a more regional perspective,” Overstreet said, noting the park's ability to draw people from many miles away.

Well, only 35% made that suggestion and the public generally supports the idea of having more people paying for something. Real hard part is convincing regional residents to pay for improvements in Steamboat Springs.

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Peter Arnold 4 months, 2 weeks ago

"Real hard part is convincing regional residents to pay for improvements in Steamboat Springs."

For whom do you speak O wise sage of the web?

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