City eyes Rita Valentine Park as potential site of new police station in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

City eyes Rita Valentine Park as potential site of new police station in Steamboat Springs

Hikers descend on a path at Rita Valentine Park near Longview Circle and Hilltop Parkway. The city of Steamboat Springs was eying a 3-acre parcel of the park directly across the street from Mill Run Court as the potential site of a new police station.

— The city of Steamboat Springs has identified a small corner of Rita Valentine Park as the best location to build its new police station.

Public Safety Director Joel Rae said the city-owned site, which is near the intersection of Longview Circle and Hilltop Parkway, is now at the top of the city’s list of potential building sites because it is centrally located and carries no land cost.

"It also allows us to best serve the community," Rae said as he explained having the police headquarters off of Hilltop Parkway places the facility more in the center of calls for police service. "It’s the center of activity if you look at where our calls come from.”

Rae and the police department recently sent out letters to more than 200 property owners who border the park informing them of the potential plan and inviting them to discuss it at two community meetings Aug. 27 and Sept. 5.

Some park neighbors said Monday they strongly oppose the plan and were surprised to hear it is being considered.

Rae stressed the decision on the site is not yet final and is pending community feedback and direction from the Steamboat Springs City Council.

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"The biggest concern is that this is zoned as open space land," Rae said. "This is obviously something that the community would really need to embrace, and it would ultimately be something that may need to go to a public vote to find out if the residents of Steamboat Springs fully support this idea or not."

The park is named in memory of Rita Valentine, a longtime Steamboat City Council member who died 15 years ago.

As a council member in the 1980s and ’90s, Valentine played a leadership role in the construction of the Yampa River Core Trail.

The park was gifted to the city in 1985 and was envisioned to remain as open space.

Rita’s husband, Don Valentine, said Monday the city’s vetting of the property for a potential police station angers him.

"The main thing is why put something like that in a residential area?," he said. "Why destroy a beautiful piece of open space? A police station doesn’t belong there."

Scott Owens, who would live directly across the street from the station, also said he was opposed to the plan.

"The biggest issue is it’s a park," he said. "It’s not a development site."

He said dog walkers and hikers enjoy the park as it is today, and it also hosts wildlife such as elk.

A conceptual design for the park in 2009 included long-range plans for a road through the property along with a turf field, a second parking lot, a disc golf course, a picnic area, a skate park and a climbing wall.

Those plans were scaled back after they faced opposition from many neighboring residents and others who liked the park as it was with only a few trails.

For about three acres of the 35-acre park to be rezoned to accommodate the police station, the proposal would need buy in from the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreation Commission and the City Council.

Rae said it may turn out that it’s feasible to build the station there, or it may become clear the community will not embrace the project at that location.

"People who border that area will have the largest impact in their neighborhood," Rae said. "The first step is to reach out to them and get feedback on the proposed idea."

He said while the park is the city’s preferred location for the station, the city has other alternatives including the Stock Bridge Transit Center.

The city wants to start construction on the new 18,000-square-foot police station next year at an estimated cost of $8.9 million. The proposed plan calls for a 12,000-square-foot building and 6,000 square feet of garage and warehouse space.

For nearly two years, the city has been working on plans to move police and firefighters out of the current downtown public safety building on Yampa Street.

City officials say the current headquarters are cramped and emergency services need more space to operate to remain effective.

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