Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

 

Thursday, April 27, 2006 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Loveland Library MP Room

 

The mission of the Larimer County Open Lands Program is to preserve and protect significant open space, natural areas, wildlife habitat, develop parks and trails for present and future generations.  These open lands provide opportunities for leisure, human renewal and protection of our natural and cultural resources.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 


Present:

Open Lands Board Members:

Brian Hayes

Mark DeGregorio

Duane Pond

Jim White

Sue Sparling

Bill Newman

Jean Carpenter

Ben Manvel

Bill Pinkham

Ted Swanson

 

Staff

Ernst Strenge

Kerri Rollins

Meegan Flenniken

Gary Buffington

K-Lynn Cameron

Dave Ciani

Jerry White

Glenn Gibson

Charlie Johnson

 

 

Absent: 

Bob Streeter

Peter Kast

 

Vice Chair, Sue Sparling called the meeting to order at 5:07 p.m.

 

Duane motioned to approve the minutes of March 23, 2006.  The motion was seconded by Ted and was unanimous.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

No public comment

 

INTRODUCTION

·  Bill Pinkham was introduced as Lori Jeffrey-Clark’s replacement for the Town of Estes.  As a Town Trustee, Lori was term limited and her term is over.  Bill was appointed as the new Estes Park representative. Bill works with the Estes Valley Land Trust, is on the Town of Estes’ Board, and has volunteered with Larimer County Parks and Open Lands for a number of years.

·  Dave Ciani, Open Lands Intern has been on-board for four weeks and will be assisting the Open Lands staff.  His final project will be working on various aspects of the Blue Sky Trail and the grand opening.

 

INFORMATION ITEMS

·  “S” permits were distributed to Board members for putting in over 20 hours of volunteer service.  These permits allow free weekday use of all Larimer County managed parks.

·  The 2005 Parks and Open Lands Annual Report is now available for distribution.  Copies were distributed to those that wanted them.

·  The 2nd Annual Silent Auction and Small Grants Awards was held on April 7, 2006 at the Rio.  Over 160 people attended, nine Small Grants were awarded by the Commissioners and $5,200 was raised for the Poudre River Trail.  Thanks to Kerri, Greg and all the volunteers for their hard work.

·  On April 8, 2006, Trout Unlimited started implementing their Small Grant project at Eagle’s Nest with a work day rehabbing the stream bank of the North Fork.

·  The Friends of Parks and Open Lands have sponsored two tours to Red Mountain Open Space to recruit new members.  The response has been very high and there is a waiting list of 90 people.  Duane said the tours helped pick up 10 new Friends members.  The Friends group has several different trips planned throughout the summer to attract new members.

·  On April 12, 2006, staff sponsored a media tour of the Blue Sky Trail.  See enclosed news articles.

·  On April 16, 2006, 7 volunteers replanted 250 shrubs along the Pleasant Valley Trail replacing shrubs lost over the winter.  This is a Prebles Meadow Jumping Mouse mitigation project.  They need to plant another 200 shrubs to complete the project.

·  The Small Grants Committee met on April 24 to discuss the mission and criteria for the Small Grants Program.  Results of these discussions will be presented to the Board in June.

·  Jim Disney has accepted the role of Visual Artist of the Year for Parks and Open Lands.  He will sketch, paint and photograph parks and open lands during 2006 and at the end of the year will present Larimer County with a piece of art that was inspired by these protected lands.

·  On May 5, 2006, there will be a joint field trip to Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain Open Space with the Open Lands Board and Fort Collins’s Land Conservation Board.  This will be a good time to see outstanding protected lands and get to know your peers at the City of Fort Collins. Peter, Bill P, Brian and Bob signed up. The trip will leave Lee Martinez Park at 9am.

·  The Annual Open Lands Board and Alumni picnic will be held at the Blue Sky Trail on Saturday, June 3 starting at 10:00 am.  This will be a sneak preview of the Blue Sky Trail before it opens June 10.  Members of the newly appointed Parks Task Force will also be invited.  Additional information will be coming soon.

·  The dedication of the Blue Sky Trail will be on Saturday, June 10, 2006. There will be simultaneous dedications going on at Soderberg, Devil's Backbone and Coyote Ridge from 10-11am.  Shuttles will run between these trailheads for those wanting to hike only one-way.

·  Mark your calendars for Friday, June 16, 2006 to celebrate the 10 years of the open space sales tax from 7:00-9:00 pm at New Belgium Brewing. Invitations will be going out for this event. Current and past OLAB members as well as HPOS Steering Committee will be invited.

·  Ranger Amanda Cooke has accepted a position with Boulder County Open Space.  Her position is being advertised.

·  Parks and Open Lands Activities for May, 2006.  See handout.

·  The Butler house has been demolished and is ready for the opening of the Blue Sky Trail.

·  Jim announced the Town of Berthoud purchased 74 acres for a park in the town, and 35 of those acres will be used for passive recreation.

 

 

BOARD COMMENT: None

 

DISCUSSION:

·  Regional Trails – Feasibility report and site visits to high priority regional trails.  High priority trails were determined by OLAB and BOCC by ranking the various trails as outlined in the 2001 Open Lands Master Plan.  Ernst handed out the feasibility report and maps.  The report includes cost estimates for general trail features.  Options to consider is to 1) complete these trails in the order they were ranked 2) work on all at the same time and move forward as funding comes available 3) get trails on the ground as soon as possible that are ready to go.

 

Ernst then reviewed the top eight trail sections as listed in the handouts, and the feasibility of getting each completed. 

 

Glenn said in the case of the Big Thompson Trail we should be working with Johnstown.  Brian said there was potential to cross under I-25 at the Big Thompson Ponds.  Ted asked, in the case of the Lonetree Trail, if there was a last missing link in the trail if we could condemn the easement.  K-Lynn and Glenn both answered that the Open Lands Program has no power or desire to condemn land.  K-Lynn said we would just wait till the land changes hands and try again with a new landowner. 

 

Ernst passed around a sign up sheet for the Board to tour these trail areas.  There will be two half-day trips, one touring the northern portion and one the southern.  The dates of May 22 and 23 were chosen. 

 

·  Disposition/Trade of open lands criteria and process –K-Lynn handed out new copies of the disposition process that was included in the Board packet.  K-Lynn reviewed that this is a proposed set of guidelines.  The impetus for doing this is Red Mountain Open Space (RMOS).  In our grant proposal it was discussed that we would put an easement on RMOS and then trade the residual land for equivalently valued land on an adjacent landowners property, protecting more land for no additional costs.  There is no decision on this, but more of a discussion.  It will be going to the BOCC this Tuesday for adoption. 

 

K-Lynn reviewed the flowchart with the attached written criteria questions.  The process was modeled after the acquisition process.  A public hearing would be a part of the process. 

 

Ted commented that the focus of the criteria seems to be focused on the land being traded away, not on comparing it with the property being acquired.  K-Lynn said we could also have a comparison for the property being acquired could be compared hand in hand.  For example at points H and F in the process.  Bill said the flow chart does not appear to show the importance of public comment.  For example, #7 in the flow chart should read Public Comment at OLAB.  It should be circular from Final Review and BOCC to show that public comment could be continuous.  Jim said the opportunity for public comment should also be considered in steps 3 and 4.  K-Lynn said it is not evident in this chart, but often the negotiations are confidential and public comment would not be appropriate.  It could show there as “if applicable”.  Bill P asked if in step 2 there is some indication to OLAB regarding if a property does or does not meet the criteria.  K-Lynn said yes, that would be discussed at Board meetings. 

 

·  Horsetooth Mountain Park (HTMP) – Options regarding funding and organizational location.

Staff are exploring options of moving HTMP from the Parks Program to Open Lands Program (OLP) per request of the BOCC from a work session earlier this year.  A memo from Marc Engemoen is also included referring to this topic, dated November of 2005.

 

Currently HTMP is in the Parks Program and funded through lottery dollars that come to them, about $500,000/year.  The Park was originally protected in 1982 through a 6 month sales tax that brought in $3 million, which also aided in building the facilities.  A user-fee was implemented shortly thereafter.  K-Lynn reviewed the handout showing the amount needed to operate the park and the anticipated revenues collected.

 

Meegan reviewed the current management status of HTMP and changes that might be anticipated if the park were to transfer to the OLP, per an interview with Mark Caughlan the Park Manager.  Her review covered staffing, trail and natural resource maintenance projects.  Bill asked how much of the $90,000 in permit revenues was used for staffing.  Gary said his professional estimate would be about $20,000.  Meegan reviewed some natural resource projects that will be completed in 2006.

 

K-Lynn reviewed some questions that came up at the finance subcommittee meetings.  For example, the difference between GOCO and lottery dollars.  K-Lynn reviewed some changes to the minutes that were also taken at that meeting per Gary.  One of these were the costs of the trailhead re-development.  There will be some OLP dollars that will help pay for the trailhead.  These funds had already been allocated to the project and are “leftover” from the cost of hiring EDAW to design the trailhead.  The dollars that would be saved from the Parks Program from not managing HTMP (estimated at $75,000/year) would be used on projects such as the Big Thompson Canyon parks, Picnic Rock and others.

 

Bill P. asked if the relationship between expenses and revenue are fairly stable over the last 4-5 years.  K-Lynn said we don’t have the figures on that to make a guess at this point.  If we look at projected trends on number of visitors will it stay at 125,000 people per year?  It would be hard to predict due to Bobcat Ridge and the Blue Sky Trail opening up this year. 

 

K-Lynn then reviewed the handout that shows the four options (A-D) developed by staff that outline the possible scenarios as to how the HTMP issue might be looked at. 

 

Comments from Board:

Option B:  Bill N. wants to add a bullet saying $75,000 now available for park projects, freed up by not having to pay for HTMP.

 

K-Lynn reviewed a handout showing the allowable percentages of how the HPOS sales tax can be spent.  Gary thought this was important to show that up to 15% can be used for the improvement of existing parks.  K-Lynn reviewed questions from the finance meeting that were noted in the minutes.  For example, Ted asked if the Department will still receive General Fund allocations if HTMP is transferred.  Gary said he thinks so. 

 

Sue said we should go around the room to say what each person (staff included) can say what option they prefer.  This is a discussion and not a vote. 

 

Jean – likes option A, though she thinks it is destined to be transferred.  With that in mind, she likes options C or D due to Blue Sky Trail being no charge and ending at HTMP.  It would be confusing for public if they had to pay fees at HTMP.  If we hope to get the sales tax extended the park should be free.

 

Mark – needs to give it some more thought but if it’s free it will get more use and cost more to maintain, so hence is it unrealistic to eliminate the fee without bankrupting the management fund.  Gary said there is a capacity limit for vehicles that can limit the number of people.  Marks preference can’t be decided till he digests the numbers and re-reads the handouts.

 

Duane – shares concerns of Jean and Mark, can we eliminate fees and maintain the park?  This could be a lever to get the extension passed.  Option B is preference till we get a better picture of maintenance. 

 

Gary – concerns about consistency for visitors.  How can we explain DBB is free but HTMP is not.  Agrees with Duane that it can be a carrot for getting the extension passed.

 

Ted – has changed some thoughts since subcommittee meeting.  Leaning toward Option A.  Ultimately it reduces finances for the OLP by developing a policy that OLP funds can subsidize parks.  He does not disagree with George Hass's legal analysis that the HPOS tax allows for this kind of thing, however he thinks voters had clear intentions and this kind of thing is not one of them.  If it had to happen, B then C then D would be his preference.

 

Ben – doesn’t understand the options as stated, either never transfer or transfer immediately.  Since we have personnel freed up in 2010 with Fossil Creek transferring to the City, then why don’t we transfer HTMP then?  For $75,000 freed up for the parks, is that very much?  Open Lands will need operations and maintenance dollars too.  Leans to A but B is all right.

 

Jerry – If we presume that the park must be transferred he prefers option B.  To give up those fees that are already in place would be giving away a lot.  This property is set up in a way conducive to fee collecting.  Compatibility issues are not a problem because it is situated adjacent to the reservoir.  Visitors will not know to make the distinction that it is now managed by OLP.

 

Ernst – Supports a longer term transfer process, which is not an option here.  Concerns about public relations and how it is reflected for the Department.  He prefers anything that increases support for the OLP.  The management plan should be reviewed to see it matches with our long term visions and how we manage other open lands sites before it is transferred.

Meegan – If it must be transferred she would go with B, with fees eliminated when we go back to the voters.  However, as far as consistency goes, if HTMP “looks” like an open space what else could potentially come out of the parks master plan.  For example, Picnic Rock, would that eventually come to the OLP too?  This change is for $75,000 to be able to go to other projects in the Department that ultimately won't benefit the OLP.

 

Charlie J – thinks it s a good fit with the program, Option B is his choice.  Gives flexibility in eliminating the fee when need to.

 

Bill P – has concerns about the numbers on the handout and the economy over next few years.  Inclined to select Option B.  Once fee is dropped you can’t ever get it back.  He's never heard complaints about fees at the Park.

 

Bill N – Favor option B, can eliminate user fees at any time.  He doesn’t think consistency is an issue as most public don’t really know who manages what anyway.  He remembers how we agonized if we could spend $75,000 for the Cohen property.  We should grab on to any dollars we can for acquisition while maintaining stewardship.

 

Dave – HTMP is already a protected area, so why spend OLP dollars on it.  Option A is first choice.  But if it had to happen, there are too many risks in eliminating user fees, so Option B is next choice. 

 

Kerri – Tough choice because it sets precedence of taking on projects that other programs can't maintain or pay for.  For that reason she prefers Option A.  Does this mean that the Parks Program will really only manage reservoirs?  Doesn't disagree that HTMP can fit within the OLP, especially since two open space have been added to it.  If it had to happen she prefers option B as the user fees will be needed to catch up on maintenance within the park.  This fits within a policy formed several years ago that there are some open spaces that will charge fees, i.e Soderberg and Ramsay-Shockey as they are adjacent to reservoirs.

 

K-Lynn – Feels it is an open space, and it is inevitable that it is coming.  She prefers options B or D, using the fees for stewardship projects.  Anything we can do to help the extension of the sales tax is a bonus.  She echoes what Bob Streeter will bring up is how do we handle future requests when asked to do these types of things.  The fund balance at the end still allows us to move forward with acquisition, development and management of new open lands and trails.

 

Sue – Choose option B.  However, we need to set some policies to decide what we’re going to do in the future.  How many requests are we going to get because we have money and other programs do not.  We need to decide on what we will take so we don’t have to go through this every time.  Once you have a policy people know what to expect.  Gary agrees with the policy idea.  The Parks Program needs to do the same thing.  He added that the Parks Program must also not take on lands they can’t pay for.


 

·  USFS proposal to dispose of certain forest lands –The Federal Government has a proposal to sell hundreds of thousands of acres across the US.  There are 8600 acres in Larimer County on the auction block to sell for the PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) to make up the deficit for rural schools in the pacific northwest.  Our BOCC says this is a short term solution to a bigger problem.  The impact it will have on local government land programs and land trusts is huge and to have to try to come up with dollars immediately to protect land they thought was already protected.  BOCC comments are they should not do it, but if they do they should offer it to the adjacent land owners and local governments first.  Bill N. said he has been trying to get a meeting with USFS agents since this came out.  He finally met with Sue Green.  From their level they are not doing anything with what was aired in the media.  They are focusing on forest stewardship.  Bill said the word that came from CML was that this idea was dead.  Ted thinks they won’t follow through on it this time. But they are floating the idea for the future.

 

DIRECTOR:  Gary reviewed the list of members on the Parks Task Force.  He reviewed a handout in the packet, a flowchart of what the new master plan will address.  EDAW is the consultant working on the plan.  It should wrap up in February of 2007.  Many of the goals of the 1993 Parks Master Plan have been accomplished.  Other handouts review these goals and how they were implemented.  K-Lynn added that she feels that the 1993 plan was more than 100% completed in the open space and the capital improvements.  We also accomplished about 95% of the 1995 Resource Management Plan.  Great things have been done since 1995.  Gary is looking forward to 2007 when 6-7 people from the Task Force are taken to create a new Board.  A couple of OLAB  members are needed to act as liaisons to the Task Force.  Peter, Sue and Bob will act in that role.

 

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION:  (24-6-402(4) (a)C.R.S. Purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale of any real or personal property interest.

Duane motioned to go in to Executive Session.  Ben seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

 

The meeting was adjourned by a motion from Duane.  The motion was seconded by Bob and carried unanimously.  The meeting was adjourned at 8:10 p.m.

 

 

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.