Rita Valentine Park improvements get high-profile endorsement | SteamboatToday.com

Rita Valentine Park improvements get high-profile endorsement

Raphael plays in the snow at Rita Valentine Park on Friday afternoon.

— On more than one occasion, Don Valentine has made a trek to a public meeting to defend the park that is named after his late wife.

He passionately defended the open space when the city proposed building a police station on a corner of it.

Prior to that, the undeveloped park also had to be defended from a new school.

But last week, Valentine found himself praising the latest idea for the park. And he pledged to invest thousands of dollars in the proposed improvements that aim to make it more dog friendly.

"There should be some things done to it," Valentine said of the park. "How many towns have something like this in the middle of their town?"

Valentine specifically mentioned that he would support such things as an expanded parking lot, the planting of some new trees, a new water source for dogs and a public restroom.

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About $22,000 of the funding Valentine wants to commit would come from a fund set up to advance the passions of Valentine's late wife, Rita Valentine.

Don Valentine also pledged to match that funding with at least an additional $22,000.

His pledges earned a strong round of applause at a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting last week.

Rita Valentine, who served on the City Council, played a pivotal role in convincing the developers who owned the land to donate it to the city.

The new improvements for the park are being proposed by Steamboat Digs Dogs, a community group that is aiming to make the city more canine friendly by improving parks and securing more off-leash areas.

"It's a hugely generous thing that Don is doing," Steamboat Digs Dogs spokeswoman Kathy Connell said. "He's one of the original icons here. It's a wonderful gesture (from Don) to go with the vision of the park that Rita would have wanted."

Connell said proponents of the dog park improvements will consider recent community feedback and come up with a refined proposal in the coming weeks.

The dog group also recently proposed testing a new off-leash area at Whistler Park through April.

But after hearing concerns from neighbors about the added traffic a new off-leash area might bring, the dog advocacy group plans to hold off on the proposal until the city can discuss off-leash options citywide.

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