Jim Engelken: Emerald Park off limits | SteamboatToday.com

Jim Engelken: Emerald Park off limits

Nineteen years ago the city of Steamboat Springs set a policy that Triple Crown would not be able to use Emerald Park. This was done out of concern for traffic on Pamela Lane and because Emerald Park was the only park off limits to Triple Crown.

The City Council felt there should be someplace in the city for people to play ball when Triple Crown was in town. This policy has been challenged by Triple Crown and its allies at the Chamber Resort Association many times since 1996 but has been upheld by every City Council. The last time, in 2013, opposition led the city's parks and recreation commission and even the head of the chamber to say no further effort should be made until a new access to the park was in place.

Recently, the city announced it has money and plans to create a new entrance to Emerald Park thereby eliminating the concern for traffic on Pamela Lane. We don't know when that work might be completed; it's up to the railroad. The railroad has given no timeline. It could be two years; it could be much longer.

Meanwhile, the contract between the city and Triple Crown is up for review and city staff has been negotiating with them with the intent of giving them access to Emerald Park. Why, you might ask? Because a new access is in the works? That does not change 19 years of established policy that city staff has no authority to change.

The Botanic Park Board has expressed a great deal of concern about this issue with good reason. The Botanic Park is a community gem and prides itself on being a "place of serenity." I, for one, would like to see it stay that way.

I also think there should be a place to play ball, have a picnic, walk your dog and all the other things people do in city parks. A great number of local sports teams use the park for practice and competition. They will be displaced when Triple Crown moves in.

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A few weeks ago, the Botanic Park board of directors succeeded at forcing a public hearing on the issue of Triple Crown in Emerald Park. City Council listened to two hours of public comment and then tabled the issue to July 7.

Despite direction to the contrary, the city manager decided not to continue the public hearing and instead buried the issue in her manager's report with the intent of informing council about her negotiations with Triple Crown. Council member Sonja Macys called it out, and now there is a public hearing scheduled for July 21.

In her report, we see the city manager proposes Triple Crown use Emerald Park beginning next summer prior to a new access being built. The proposal allows for expanded use by Triple Crown in subsequent years after the new access is complete. Keep in mind, the city manager has received no direction to do any of this. She has no authority to change city policy.

This is getting ridiculous. The original reasons for protecting Emerald Park are unchanged. All of this so we can bring 15 percent more teams to Steamboat Springs. When will it be enough?

Triple Crown and the chamber will always want more. It's time City Council passes an ordinance saying Triple Crown is not allowed in Emerald Park thereby dissuading ongoing efforts by Triple Crown, the chamber and even their own staff to harm so many people for the sake of a few more dollars.

Jim Engelken

Steamboat Springs