Steamboat Parks and Rec Commission continues to learn about rec districts, but gets little public comment | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Parks and Rec Commission continues to learn about rec districts, but gets little public comment

Scott Franz

— The Steamboat Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday night continued its quest to learn whether a parks and recreation district could be formed here to better fund all things parks and rec.

“Could you imagine us starting from scratch to get a parks and recreation district going?” Commissioner Chrissy Lynch asked the heads of two recreation districts in the state who were on hand in Citizens Hall to further educate the commission about the districts that rely on property taxes and user fees to operate.

Scott Ledin, the director of the Fraser Valley Recreation District, said there would be “lots of T’s to cross and I’s to dot.”

“There are certainly some challenges to it, but some benefits that go along with it also,” Ledin said.

Ledin and Ron Hopp, the executive director of the Foothills Parks and Recreation District, talked to the commission extensively about the finances and history of their districts.

The commission has spent the past several months learning about the districts because several commissioners think Steamboat’s parks and recreational amenities aren’t adequately being funded by the city’s general fund alone.

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The commission also has expressed interest in learning about other funding sources besides districts.

Ledin and Hopp reflected on the pros and cons of the funding structure of their districts.

They said not having to compete with other city departments in a budget cycle was “refreshing” and positive, but declining property values during the recession limited what their districts could do.

They also talked about how districts’ efforts to ask voters for more money often fail.

Hopp said voters in his district have rejected the district’s last three requests for a property tax increase to fund operations and capital improvements.

At the end of the presentations on districts, several commissioners said they want their exploration of alternative funding sources to evolve into a broader regional conversation.

So far though, they have received little public comment on the issue at the meetings called to learn more about those alternatives.

“It may require another community survey,” Commission Chairman Alan Koermer said about getting that feedback.

Koermer said any alternative funding sources for parks and recreation here would require a grassroots effort.

Commissioner Doug Tumminello said the funding of parks and recreation should be viewed as a regional issue that goes beyond the city limits.

He and other commissioners wanted to expand the funding conversation to include stakeholders from Routt County, nearby towns like Oak Creek and Hayden and the Steamboat Springs School District.

Commissioner Jenette Settle said Wednesday’s presentation from Hopp and Ledin softened her initial opposition to the idea of a parks and recreation district.

She said she came away from the presentations thinking a district could be customized to fit the region’s needs.

Koermer reminded the audience that because the commission is an advisory group, it does not have the power to pursue any additional funding sources.

It would have to recommend an alternative funding source to the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Some members of the council already have made it clear they are not interested in pursuing a new taxing district at this time.

Council President Bart Kounovsky said such a funding structure would have to be born out of a grassroots effort in the community.

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