Tuesday, April 8, 2008, 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building, 200 W. Oak St., Ft. Collins, CO
Linda Knowlton, Chair
Barry Lewis, Vice Chair
Randy Eubanks, County Commissioner
The April 8, 2008, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Linda Knowlton, Chair, at 5:30 p.m. The minutes of the meeting on March 11, 2008, were approved.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Items not on the agenda – None
GENERAL INFORMATION: Questions – 5 minutes
§ March 25, 2008: The Phase II Prescribed Burn at the north end of the Devil’s Backbone Open Space was completed as part of the larger restoration plan for the Indian Creek Valley. We are also conducting a study of the effectiveness of grazing to control cheat grass. 500 sheep will graze a fenced 10 acre area now; and a second grazing will occur on half of the test acreage later in the growing season. Sheep grazing will also occur at Rimrock Open Space, as well as on Fort Collins’ natural areas.
§ March 30, 2008: The new Larimer County Natural Resources weekly column in the Coloradoan began appearing on March 30. The column will be featured in the Sunday Explorer section, with contributions by staff from every program within the department.
§ April 3, 2008: Natural Resources staff will provide a panel representing various professions within the Department for a new course at CSU called "Real World Road Trips." The panel discussion will take place at the Bison Visitor Center.
§ April 16, 2008: An informational seminar for area landowners, “Stewarding Private Properties: Resources for Landowners,” is scheduled at the Agricultural Research Development and Education Center (ARDEC) at CSU. Partners for this event include CSU, Larimer County Cooperative Extension, Larimer County Weed District, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) and the Division of Wildlife (CDOW.)
§ April 24, 2008: The Open Lands Advisory Board (OLAB) will meet at the Bison Visitor Center.
§ April/May: The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Northern Integrated Supply Project will be issued at the end of April. An OLAB subcommittee will be reviewing the document in detail.
§ May/June: The presentation to the Parks Advisory Board by Northern Colorado Water (NCWCD) has been postponed until May, at the request of the Commissioners.
§ June: Colorado Conservation Trust (CCT) has approved a two-year full-time fellow to work in the Open Lands Program. For the past several years, we have shared a fellow with another agency. The current half-time fellow, Emily Saeli, will be going full time in June with Larimer Land Trust.
§ July 26-27, 2008: The VOC (Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado) Project for Horsetooth Falls Trail is scheduled for the weekend of July 26-27, 2008. Mark your calendars for this fun event! Please contact Meegan Flenniken at 679-4562, to sign up to assist with this event.
§ Parks and Open Lands events for April. (See attached.)
§ Boating and Fishing Expo at The Ranch was this past weekend – expanded to 3 days, with 3000 attendance. New this year were a fish tank for speakers to use, and a kids’ fishing tank. 150 kids participated in the casting contest. Tom Miller noted that Mark Caughlan deserves accolades on the marketing of this event. He has done an excellent job. Gary indicated that next year we may expand, in cooperation with The Ranch. Mark confirmed that there is a lot of interest in expanding this event, as a local focus.
§ The Friends Silent Auction was also last weekend. There was a good turn-out. The funds will go toward improvements at Hermit Park.
BOARD COMMENT: Items not on the agenda – 5 minutes
INFORMATIONAL ITEMS: None
Big Thompson Public Access – Selection Criteria – Gary Buffington
§ Chair Linda Knowlton noted that it is our intention to be as fair and transparent as possible in our handling of these properties, and that is the purpose of the evaluation criteria.
Gary presented the following draft criteria
for evaluating the suitability of parcels for public fishing access.
1) Safe vehicular parking on public property adjacent to Highway 34 and in general proximity to proposed public access sites.
2) Sites must be located on public lands not immediately adjacent to private landowners, or there must be a significant buffer area between the public lands and private property.
3) Sites may be reserved indefinitely for future consideration as public use areas pending budgetary funding.
§ How would parking areas be identified – signs?
§ Would sites be eliminated solely because no parking is presently available?
§ Add the road along the north fork of the river – not all the parcels are located on US 34.
§ Aren’t all the parcels adjacent to private landowners? (Gary: No – some are between a road and the river, or adjacent to government-owned property.)
§ What happens if a parcel fails to meet all criteria? (Park Manager Dan Rieves: These are guidelines. There wouldn’t be a requirement for all three criteria to be met.)
§ Usually that’s what criteria are – the bases for decision.
§ Parcels should provide one of two things: river access, or access to public lands.
§ If a parcel is an “island” surrounded on all sides by private property, it is not appropriate for public access.
§ If a road separates two parcels, is that considered adjacent? (Gary: Such parcels are considered “neighboring” to distinguish from parcels which are immediately adjacent.)
§ #3 is intended to allow the County to reserve properties indefinitely – that doesn’t sound like a criteria; it sounds like a process.
§ Once designated, would such parcels be off the table permanently?
§ Parcels may be reserved due to lack of funding, not just because the fate of that parcel has not been determined.
§ There are also other reasons for which properties may be reserved which should be included in the criteria: E.g., road work, changes in ownership, or other issues.
§ During this process the Board may leave some parcels pending without a decision, and focus on those about which decisions can be made readily.
§ Wildlife preservation and enhancement could be another reason for preserving a parcel – fishing access is not the only criterion.
§ Some parcels may be retained in a natural state – not for public access, but for resource value.
Barb Anderson: She wants to say how many years before the Big Thompson flood did we have fishermen coming up the canyon? There was always plenty of space for them. If we’re selling these parcels, they should go to the previous owners at the time of the flood. Otherwise, there will be more heartache than we can imagine. People who lost them at the time of the flood should have the opportunity to get them back, if they want them.
Ray _____: There is a problem with access. We say ‘fishing access’ but how are we going to keep out the motorcycles, ATVs, picnickers, etc. We need to find a different word, then stand back and think about the unintended consequences before moving ahead.
Dallas Maur: He referred to the letter from Austin Condon in January, who is a 30 year veteran of the US Forest Service, which addressed the issues of fishing access, etc. The County staff said they would take his letter into consideration. If we focus on access from the highway to the river, that letter addresses all the problems. In the 20 mile section from the Dam Store to Estes Park, there are 17.5 miles or 18.5 miles of access to the river from the highway. That’s a lot of access –more than other rivers in the state.
People dump unwanted rocks, tree branches, and trash; they park modular homes several at a time, for several days – they see this as County property and they can do whatever they want. All kinds of construction materials, plywood, nails, tires, yard waste. One guy who did that turned out to be a state patrolman. Fishermen bring their dogs and let them run, leave messes. Dirty diapers get left on the ground. Kayakers strip naked, change their clothes in plain sight, etc. The County must be sensitive to the needs of the homeowners who live along the river – not just accommodating fishermen.
John Smeltzer, Chair, Colorado Wildlife Federation: He retired from the Colorado Division of Wildlife in 2004; he was Director of Field Operations. His organization is interested in public access, among other issues. Every piece of access we now have will become scarce and precious as population grows rapidly. The Board must address the concerns of private property owners as well. He urges the Board to consider:
Mike Horn, Cedar Cove: There is quite a bit of public interest in this issue. If there is enough interest, he requests that the 15 minute public comment be extended to allow all to speak for more than 2 minutes. He also has questions about #2. There are a lot of public parcels and private land near his property. Every year there are more cars parked by the side of the road. This trend will continue. If the public doesn’t have someplace to park or recreate, they will park in people’s front yards and picnic on private property, etc. As soon as we open that can of worms, people are going to dive through it.
___: When Gary first came, he said people who lost property in the flood would be asked first, then adjacent landowners, then open to anyone. The adjacent landowners have already worked hard to accommodate public intrusion.
___: In their area, they’ve had double parking of trailers for a long time, when folks can’t get up to Storm Mountain.
____: Her property was adjacent to Area 20. Was there public notice before the sale?
Chair Linda Knowlton explained the need for comments to be limited. She suggested that folks choose a spokesperson to speak for them, and to avoid repeating comments which have already been made.
Gary Buffington: The County Commissioners approved two tiers: Previous and adjacent landowners first, then the general public. Of the 5 parcels sold, 3 went to adjacent landowners, 2 went to the public after the prior landowner declined.
§ Over the next several years, the Department and the Board will be gradually addressing these parcels – it won’t be happening overnight.
§ Other criteria should include: Non-developable; potential for conflict with property owners.
§ A lot of the problems people have been experiencing may go away when the areas are clearly identified, signed as County parks, or as open or closed to public access.
§ Where some of these problems are occurring may not even be County property – might be property managed by another agency.
§ There are other avenues for communicating with the Board, like letters or emails, through the County website, which go to all Board members for review. He encourages people to communicate. (Staff note: Online comments go to Gary Buffington, who may then forward them to the Board as appropriate.)
§ Linda Knowlton, Chair, stated that she doesn’t always forward all e-mails sent to her, unless it is clear that the sender wanted it to be forwarded. Another Board member stated that he does the same. If that’s not the expectation of the Board, that should be clarified.
§ Linda proposed deferring this item for further consideration at a future meeting.
§ What happens next – will the criteria be revised before next meeting? Will a subcommittee be appointed to work on the evaluation criteria?
§ Park Manager Dan Rieves stated that he had hoped to have these to use in evaluating properties on the Board field trip scheduled for April 18.
§ Prepare a checklist – not set criteria; a subcommittee can develop and distribute the checklist to members before the field trip.
§ When dealing with personal property conflicts, that’s very ambiguous. There needs to be a scale for assessing potential risk of conflict. With population increase, this will become very important – if not manageable, it has the potential to become very difficult.
§ The Board can’t really establish good criteria until we see what they look like. The set criteria may prove to be meaningless.
§ What happens when someone buys a parcel and begins using it in a way that offends the neighbor who wanted to buy it but couldn’t afford it?
§ It is proposed to adopt these criteria as a checklist for the field trip, and then address formal evaluation criteria with a sub-committee later.
§ The Board wants the public to know that they really appreciate the public coming out to watch the Board work on these issues. Board members thanked those present.
Criteria should include these bullets:
Parks Master Plan – Campground use change – Gary Buffington
Gary Buffington explained that a change is needed to the Master Plan to accommodate the projects approved by GOCO for the $695,000 grant. GOCO approved an RV campground with full hook-ups in the area where the Master Plan shows cabins.
Dennis Acott, neighbor to the south, called Gary to discuss the proposal. Dennis is concerned about changing the density in that area. He wants to keep noise, dust, traffic, etc., away from his home. So he wants no more than 6 RV sites to replace 6 cabins. Gary agrees that this is reasonable.
§ Will we lose RV campsites, or will the other 6 go somewhere else?
§ Why did GOCO require that the Master Plan be changed? What would they know about the area that we didn't know when we wrote the master plan? Why did the GOCO grant not match the Master Plan? (Mark Caughlan stated that it was an oversight – the grant located the RV camping in the area where cabins are planned.)
§ One Board member favors the substitution – full service RV sites don’t require cleaning services or restrooms as do the cabins.
§ Ivan Andrade is concerned about the cost of full hook-ups – a big change. (Mark Caughlan stated that it is easier and cheaper to install the full hook-ups here than in the original location north of the Horsetooth shop.)
§ Rob Harris: Six cabin sites will be converted to full hook-up RV sites. But the Master Plan and the GOCO grant called for 12 full hook-up RV sites. Where will the other six full hook-up sites be located? (Mark Caughlan stated that the others will probably be located at existing campsites across the road.)
§ Frank Cada: What will the camping fee be for full hook-ups? (Not yet determined.)
STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:
Park District updates and Parks Master Plan Implementation Progress report – Park District Managers, Mark Caughlan and Dan Rieves
§ The shower house bids came in much higher than anticipated. The County has decided to hire an architectural firm to do design-build plans. To save money, the project will be managed in-house by Todd Juergens in County Engineering.
§ County Engineering is also assisting with surveying of other projects. Mark reviewed the schedule for the next three years.
§ Carter Lake water level will be up more than expected. Some ramps are already in the water. Filling will continue until mid-July. Two ramps will be in the water all year.
§ Carter Lake Marina project: Contractually, the building must have Certificate of Occupancy by the first week of July. It will be a 3000 sf building, on two levels – hence the small footprint.
§ In the old Marina, the concession operators had living space, which they consider crucial to their operations. A small separate residence (500-800sf.) has been added to the project because County building codes prohibit putting residential space in the maintenance building as originally planned.
§ Linda: How much cost did that add to the project? (Dan Rieves indicated that there was no cost increase as a result.)
§ Gary believes that we need to see a return on this investment over the future – whether concession or County operated.
§ Zebra mussel invasion has reached crisis state. Last fall, it was found at Pueblo Reservoir. The strategy in the state is containment to Pueblo Reservoir. Officers will have authority to inspect and quarantine incoming boats for mandated decontamination. We will require funding from the Bureau of Reclamation if we are required to inspect all boats.
§ Prevention is probably not realistic unless boating is banned from the reservoir. Raising public awareness is our best weapon.
§ The specific steps required are not simple.
§ At Lake Powell, boaters are required to sign an affidavit that the boat has been dry for 30 days, or they are charged $20 for park staff to clean the boat before it goes on. Two major reservoirs in California (Lake Casitas) have been closed to boating, literally overnight. The zebra mussels can’t be stopped – all it takes is one drop of infested water. One mussel produces 2 million offspring. The entire ecosystem is changed.
§ The risk is “absolute devastation.” They become encrusted on water treatment facilities, filter the water too much and kill off everything else living in the water.
DIRECTOR’S REPORT: Monthly update to the Board
Upper and Lower Picnic Rock Recreation Area in the Poudre Canyon
§ Lower Picnic Rock is owned by the Division of Wildlife (CDOW) and the City of Ft. Collins. Upper Picnic Rock is owned by CDOW.
§ Ft. Collins manages the Lower Picnic Rock area. Most other agencies bailed out of management several years ago before Fort Collins took over. Fort Collins’ funding runs out in 2009. The cost is estimated at $8-10,000 per site per year. Both will be closed.
§ Gary talked to John Stokes about partnering with the City to continue managing these areas. Friends of the Poudre is supportive of it. This area has good public access. Gary recommends considering it.
§ Park Manager Mark Caughlan stated that it requires a monumental effort to collect fees there. Picnic Rock is located 10 miles from the nearest County park area.
§ Park Manager Dan Rieves notes that the most direct benefit is to the rafting companies – they should assume responsibility.
§ Gary stated that if we could find a funding source, we might be able to operate all these areas – Lon Hagler, Watson Lake, etc.
§ Dan Rieves noted that the fact is, if we want to get Lon Hagler and Watson Lake, we have to take Picnic Rock, too. That’s the deal the State is offering.
§ Gary acknowledged this fact. These individual areas aren’t significant enough to become State Parks.
§ What other agencies have managed it? (State Parks took it over to clean it up, and then had a budget issue. Then CDOW and Ft. Collins.)
§ Would this have any relevance if we were managing a reservoir up there? (Mark Caughlan stated that it might save a little fuel, but otherwise, management would be just as problematical.)
§ Why would the County want to assume responsibility and liability for areas which other agencies have been unable to fund or manage effectively?
§ We are talking about selling off properties in the Big Thompson Canyon partially to reduce management costs – how would it make sense to acquire other non-revenue-generating areas which are much farther away?
US Forest Service picnic areas on the north fork of the Big Thompson River near Glen Haven
§ These sites will be scraped because the US Forest Service can’t afford to manage them. However, they will remain open to public access without facilities.
§ Gary was approached about managing them, but without funding, Gary does not recommend it.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:00 p.m.
Approved: ____________________________ ______________________
Chair, Parks Advisory Board (Date)
FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
May 13, 2008:
Presentation by Northern Water (NCWCD) about the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) and proposed plans for Glade Reservoir
Presentation by Lori Smith, Sr. Accountant, on the Open Lands Program – Acquisition & Development
June 10, 2008: Presentation by Lori Smith, Sr. Accountant, on the Open Lands Program – Long Term Management
To be scheduled:
Next regular meeting: May 13, 2008, at the Bison Visitor Center, 1800 SCR 31, Loveland, CO
Agenda for April 8, 2008, PAB meeting
Minutes of March 11, 2008, PAB meeting
Parks and Open Lands events for April
NOTE: OLAB minutes were not available, but may be viewed on County website.
Public can view agenda and minutes at www.larimer.org/parks