MINUTES

Tuesday, August 28, 2007, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building,

200 West Oak Street, Fort Collins, CO

Text Box: The mission of the Larimer County Parks and Open Lands Department is to establish, protect, and manage significant regional parks and open lands, providing quality outdoor recreational opportunities and stewardship of natural resource values.  We are committed to fostering a sense of community and appreciation for the natural and agricultural heritage of Larimer County for present and future generations.

Present:

Parks Advisory Board Members:

Linda Knowlton, Chair

Rob Harris

Barry Lewis, Vice Chair

Chad LaChance

Ivan Andrade

Tom Miller

Dave Coulson

Kathy Palmeri

Russell Fruits

 

 

Staff

Gary Buffington

Randy Eubanks

Mark Caughlan

K-Lynn Cameron

Dan Rieves

Meegan Flenniken

Debra Wykoff

 

 

Absent: 

Frank Cada

 

Rich Harter

 

 

The August 28, 2007, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Linda Knowlton, Chair, at 5:30 p.m.  The minutes of the July 23, 2007, meeting were approved.  Newly appointed Board members, Russell Fruits and Kathy Palmeri, were welcomed and introduced.  Kathy Palmeri has lived in Estes Park for 14 years, and owns a private campground near Hermit Park.  Russell Fruits has a background with the Boy Scouts, and recreational experience with Larimer County’s park areas; he is a strong advocate of outdoor recreation. Also recently appointed, County Commissioner Randy Eubanks attended in place of  Board liaison, Commissioner Rennels.

 

Linda Knowlton, Chair, encouraged all members to attend the training for new Board members provided by the County Commissioners.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT: Items not on the agenda. - None

 

GENERAL INFORMATION:

·  The County Commissioners approved the proposed 2008 park permit fee changes at Admin. Matters on August 28, 2007.  Hermit Park was not included in those fees. 

·  Hermit Park cabins will be open for public use from September 14 through November 18. 

·  The Open Lands Advisory Board (OLAB) met on August 23, 2007, at the Loveland Library.

·  The Open Lands staff held their mid-year retreat on August 1st at Hermit Park.

·  The Estes Valley Land Trust celebrated their 20th Anniversary at the Stanley Hotel in Estes on August 12.

·  Newly appointed County Commissioner Randy Eubanks attended a field trip to the Laramie Foothills: Mountains to Plains Project on August 15, 2007.

·  An Open House to review the draft management plans for Red Mountain Open Space and Soapstone Prairie Natural Area was held in Fort Collins on August 16, 2007.  We are doing a joint management planning process with Fort Collins for these areas.

·  Parks and Open Lands will have booths at the New West Fest in Fort Collins and the Corn Roast in Loveland.

·  Fort Collins City Council approved a donation of $90,000 toward Hermit Park on August 21, 2007.

·  An Appreciation Picnic for donors to the successful Hermit Park fundraising campaign was held on Saturday, August 25 from 9:30 to 1:00 pm at Hermit Park.  The Open Lands Board and Parks Board were invited. 

·  Public meetings to review the draft management plan for Hermit Park will be held on Thursday, August 30 in Estes Park at the Town Hall and Thursday, September 6 in Loveland at the Senior Center, from 5-7pm.

·  Parks & Open Lands 2006 Annual Report to be distributed throughout Larimer County by August 31, 2007.

·  The 2007 COSA Conference in Steamboat Springs is scheduled for September 10-12.  OLAB members Sue Sparling, Jean Carpenter and Peter Kast will be attending.  Jim White volunteered to be a back up.  Check out www.coloradoopenspace.org  for field trips and work sessions.

·  The grand opening of the new Horsetooth Mountain Park trailhead will be held on Saturday, September 22, from 8:00 – Noon.  The dedication ceremony is at 11:00 am.

·  The 3rd Annual Northern Colorado Birding Fair will be held on September 29, 2007, at Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space.

 

BOARD COMMENT: Items not on the agenda

·  Tom Miller noted that the Parks and Open Lands Department has 25% representation on the Larimer County Employees of the Month for 2006-07 – an indication of the quality of our staff.

PRESENTATIONS: 

·  Hermit Park Open Space Management Plan– Meegan Flenniken, Open Lands Resource Specialist, provided an overview of the natural and cultural resources of Hermit Park.  K-Lynn Cameron, Open Lands Manager, reviewed the management planning process developed and used by the department.  The process includes two public meetings, as well as one-on-one meetings with neighboring landowners and other specific stakeholders including a Technical Advisory Group comprised of subject experts and project partners.  The proposed plan is posted on the County website for public comment.

The management vision for Hermit Park Open Space is a "back-country experience in a front-country location".  The property offers campsites and cabins; dogs on leash; mountain biking (and hiking and equestrian trails) - recreation experiences that provide diverse opportunities in the Estes Valley not available at Rocky Mountain National Park. 

The Estes Valley Land Trust holds a CE on Hermit Park and in the conservation easement document 25% of the acreage is designated for more intensive recreation (recreational facilities, etc.) and 75% designated with more focus on resource protection (undeveloped with the exception of limited trails & trailheads).  EDAW has been contracted to assist in preparing a phased design development for Hermit Park that Meegan will submit to the County Special Review Process showing the long-term recreation schema. 

In transitioning Hermit Park from a private to public recreation area, there are a number of requirements that must be met including: constructing a left-hand turn lane, meeting building codes, improving the internal roads to standard, etc. before Hermit Park is opened to general public use. Since all operational costs and capital improvements to Hermit Park will be funded primarily by fees and grants, the various proposed improvements will be prioritized over the long-term.  Some start-up costs have been paid by “loans” to Hermit Park from both the Open Lands and Parks programs.

Proposed long-term recreation facilities include: four trailheads (Saddle, Hermit's Cabin, Kruger Rock and Homestead Meadows) that connect via an internal trail system; a 75-100 vehicle parking area, second pavilion and flush toilet at the  group use area; relocating the two southern cabins and constructing the CE-allowed 3 additional cabins near the main cabin loop; the CE-allowed two larger cabins will be located across from the group use area; Revamping the existing campgrounds to potentially add the up to 20 additional campsites allowed so long as the overall quality of camping isn't diminished; Shower houses will be located within campgrounds; Campground #5 will be removed and restored; RV and tent campers will be separated; and a 3,000 s.f. visitor center constructed near Hwy 36.

Currently, the Estes Valley Land Trust has concerns about the number and location of proposed trails, as well as the amount of parking planned.  These concerns will be addressed.  Generators are not compatible with a “back-country” experience, but have become very popular, even with tent campers.  We are allowed to develop electrical service, which can be desirable to eliminate generators, even though electrical service is also not part of a back-country experience. 

The existing water services are not functional below 32 degrees.  Initially, only some areas and some services will remain open during the winter.  Water augmentation issues may arise, requiring that water taken out of the ground be replaced.  Other issues to be addressed include health issues related to the water delivery system.  A forest management plan will be developed with the CSFS.  A NEPA process and permit is currently submitted to the USFS and is required to develop a trail to Krueger Rock, located on USFS property. 

Options under consideration include offering Larimer County residents a preference on camping reservations.  The reservation window may need to be expanded from 90 days to several years, given the international visitor base.  Some Parks Board members favor a local preference - e.g., an earlier window for reservations by Larimer County residents.  Other Parks Board members prefer equal access to all.

 

 

INFORMATIONAL ITEMS:

·  Bylaws Subcommittee report – Director Gary Buffington and subcommittee members.
Gary reviewed proposed changes to the bylaws, highlighting significant items.
Board comments:

·  Is the approval of fees included in purpose? 

·  Description of  how original terms were determined should be retained for historical value.

·  Add provision for an Executive Committee, consisting of officers of the Parks Advisory board and the Open Lands Advisory Board, etc.


The subcommittee will meet again on the Executive Committee issue; further Board comment and a vote will be scheduled for the next meeting.

·  Name change – Gary announced that the department name will be changed to Department of Natural Resources.  This will be implemented gradually to avoid unnecessary expense.

·  Ranger Program information – Park District Managers Mark Caughlan and Dan Rieves
Dan explained that visitor services include those positions with direct contact with visitors.  The current vision is a Larimer County ranger corps, which is cross trained on all different park and open space areas, and may be assigned to any area.  There are three levels of rangers: 
Level 1:  Enforce park regulations only
Level 2:  Certified peace officer with power of arrest; significant additional training required.
Sr. Ranger:  Supervisory level
Seasonal worker positions supplement the regular positions.  Regular rangers supervisory the seasonal staff. 

Six of eight regular positions came open simultaneously.  18 people were interviewed; most of the positions have been filled through this process.  There was a limited pool of qualified individuals.  Some reorganization was done; some seasonal positions were consolidated to fund new regular positions.  Per Dan, our ranger program is the model for the state, and is the face of the department with the public. 
Dan noted that conservation officers are 50% more likely to be assaulted on the job, according to national statistics.  The next goal is to elevate our water safety program and boating program.  .

Board comment:
One of the challenges is that people are in a different frame of mind when they go out to recreate – they do not expect to be confronted about rules enforcement.  One Board member has experience with dive rescue and complimented the professionalism of County rangers with whom he has come into contact.

·  Parks and Open Lands Department budget information update – Gary Buffington
Gary briefly reviewed the budget process and stated that the goal is to get to 97% self sufficiency, which he is confident will be achieved.

Board comment:
There is still a portion of the population which has difficulty paying our prices to recreate – we should strive not to price people out of the market.  Parks are an essential service, just like law enforcement and roads. 

Dan noted that the real distinction is that those services are mandated, whereas recreation is not.  Gary observed that when the open space sales tax expires, we’ll be looking at revamping the sales tax wording to include parks.
 

·  Horsetooth Sail & Saddle Club license – Mark Caughlan
The Sail & Saddle Club was formed by the earliest staff of this department, back in the 1950’s.  The Club has a clubhouse located on federal land at Horsetooth.  Their license comes up for renewal this year.  They want a 10 year contract with a 10 year option.  The department is limiting all licenses to 5 years with renewal option.  The Sail & Saddle pays $1200 per year, while Carter Lake Sail Club pays $15,000 per year.  The new license will address this inequity.  The draft license will be brought to the Parks Advisory Board within the next two months.  Mark noted that Carter Lake Sail Club has 50 families; Sail & Saddle has only 20, although it does occupy the same size footprint as Carter Lake Sail Club.  There is also an issue with Reclamation regarding private concession facilities on public land – exclusive uses are prohibited. 

Board comment:
Can the County refuse to renew the license for less than market value?  The market value of this facility would probably be higher than $10,000 per year.

 

STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:

·  Parks Master Plan Implementation – Progress report. – Gary Buffington, Mark Caughlan, Dan Rieves
Over $1 million in ADA funding has been committed by the Bureau of Reclamation.  A GOCO grant is being requested in the amount of $695,000, to help fund implementation of the Master Plan at Horsetooth.

Board comment:
It is important to educate the public on the reason and necessity for fee increases, beyond new facilities.  Dan noted that fee increases are more palatable to the public if they see improvements.

The Carter Lake Marina building design and implementation Request for Proposals generated interest from 15 companies.  Bids are due soon.  Exemptions have been secured from some County planning requirements, such as paving and landscape requirements.  It is expected to open April, 2008.

Four large new entrance signs will be installed at Horsetooth by December.  The grand re-opening of Horsetooth Mountain Park is set for September 22.  

 

DISCUSSION ITEMS:

·  Division of Wildlife potential partnerships
Gary reviewed the current situation at Watson Lake and Lon Hagler.  Kathay Rennels was contacted by citizens who are unhappy with the lack of recreational access at Watson Lake.  The Division of Wildlife is studying the issue at Watson Lake.  The department will talk to The Division of Wildlife about management possibilities.  Making the areas self-sufficient through fees will be important and also difficult – we would not be able to manage at the same level of service offered at the other reservoirs. There is no data available on annual visitation at these lakes.  That must also be assessed.

Board comment:
Why doesn’t the Sheriff enforce in these areas?  Why should we assume that responsibility?  We’re strapped financially, and cannot afford to take on more areas that require intensive management without a sufficient revenue stream.  If we can’t provide a sufficient level of service to address gang activity and other issues, we shouldn’t get involved – locking the gate may be a practical solution.

ACTION ITEMS: None

 

DIRECTOR’S REPORT:

·  Monthly update to the Board
Gary asked the Board what information they would like to see each month.
Board comment:

·  Emergency items that come up

·  Current revenue compared to last year, with explanation of gross differences

·  New or additional revenues generated

·  What activities do visitors engage in by percentages?

·  All licenses and special event requests

·  What benefit do our exclusive uses provide – e.g., to obtain grant funding – what do they add to the mix?

·  Information about park concessionaires

·  How are the concession licensees doing with the 13 point list approved in the new Parks Master Plan?

 

PUBLIC COMMENT:  Items on the agenda.

 

FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:

·  September 25, 2007:  Parks Master Plan and Task Force celebration; Northern Colorado Disc Golf Club presentation; Parks and Open Lands Department Budget Overview; Bylaws Committee update.

 

·  October 23, 2007:  Horsetooth Mountain Park internal transfer; Red Mountain Open Space Management Plan update; possible presentation by Jason Labelle on cultural resources at Red Mountain Open Space.

 

·  Future:  Dan will explain the special event process.

 

Meeting adjourned at 8:30 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Debra Wykoff                                     

 

 

 

Approved: ____________________________                     ______________________

                 Chair, Parks Advisory Board                            (Date)

 

 

Next regular meeting: September 25, 2007, at the Bison Visitor Center, 1800 SCR 31, Loveland, CO