MINUTES

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 , 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.,

Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building, 200 West Oak, Ft. 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                                                                                  Frank Gillespie

Barry Lewis, Vice Chair                                                                                 Tom Miller

Dave Coulson                                                                                                  Forrest Orswell

Russell Fruits

 

Staff                                                                                      Guests

Steve Johnson, Commissioner

Gary Buffington, Natural Resources Director

  Lynette Johnson

Dan Rieves, Visitor Services Program Manager

 

Debra Wykoff, Business Operations Manager

 

 

 

Absent: 

Mark DeGregorio

 

Frank Cada

Chad LaChance

 

 

The March 10, 2009, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Chair Linda Knowlton, at 5:35 p.m.  The minutes of the February 10, 2009, meeting were approved.

 

INFORMATIONAL ITEMS

Welcome and Introductions

§   Linda welcomed the new Commissioner liaison to the Parks Advisory Board, Commissioner Steve Johnson, who thanked Board members for their contribution and dedication.

 

§   Two new Board members have been appointed to fill the remaining terms of two departing members. Frank Gillespie and Forrest Orswell. Frank has been a volunteer naturalist with Larimer County for the past 10 years.  He is very interested in the wise use of the parks and open spaces in the County.  He also volunteers for the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers.  He is interested in learning about how these resources are maintained, etc.  Forrest has two young children, and is interested in learning more about the County natural resources, as he rears his children in this community.

 

§   Ivan Andrade, has also resigned from the Board.  His seat will remain vacant until regular Board appointments occur in June.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT: Items not on the agenda – 1 hour

The Board received  comment on the Big Thompson parcels – Hayden Subdivision options.  The 60-day public comment period will continue through the Board’s next meeting on April 14, 2009.  Chair Linda Knowlton explained that the Board will be considering a staff recommendation at that meeting; and may recommend approval of the recommendation or make an independent recommendation to the Commissioners.  The action taken on these parcels does not set a precedent for future parcels; each area will be addressed separately as appropriate to that area.

The County Commissioners have set a meeting at the Big Thompson Community Center, in Drake, CO, at 7:00 p.m., on Monday, March 30, 2009, to hear public comment.  Board members and the public are welcome to attend that meeting.

Public Comment:

§   Bus Tarbox:  He is representing the residents at Drake, who feel that access is not necessary on the other side of the river.  The County owns the property as a result of the Big Thompson Flood of 1976.  While some parcels are appropriate for public access, these lots are not, because they are located in a subdivision.  Residents have taken good care of the property for the County – picking up trash, weeds, etc.  Access on the east side of the river is not compatible with the private ownership in that area.

§   Walt Graul:  Several times the point has been made that there are several fishermen on the Board.  He hopes that Board members have a passion for the types of outdoor recreation managed by the Department.  He wants to compliment the County on having Board members who are knowledgeable and understand the activities of the County, and the broad interests that are represented.

§   Dallas Maurer:  Resident of Hayden Subdivision.  For us, it’s all about preservation of our neighborhoods.  The public trespass is just incredible.  If you lived there, you would feel the same as they do.  It will be a problem forever, if the County grants public access into the subdivision.  They say call the cops – cops don’t want to respond to a guy relieving himself in the bushes. 

There are 750 ft. on the inside bank; at best, about 75 feet are accessible when the river is down.  Most of the time, you can’t get into the creek there.  It’s not very accessible from the inside.  The fishermen want to have access all the way through.  But all they really do is access from the outside and fish up and down the river.  Because there is private property on both sides of the river there, you have to get into the water. 

There are 175 pull-offs in the 17 miles between the Dam Store and Estes Park – lots of public access, and much better fishing.  It’s not a catch and release area, so the few fishermen that fish there clean out the fish.  The quality fishing is from Waltonia on up the Canyon.  He listed several large public access areas which are close to this area, including Sleepy Hollow, a handicapped fishing access, Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park, etc.  The fishermen get out with their beer cans and cigarettes and walk along the river there, discover that they can’t get in, drop their beer cans and cigarette butts and leave.  There is a big issue with trespass, people who leave dirty diapers, etc.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION:  (Questions – 5 min.)

Volunteer Ranger Assistant training in partnership with Fort Collins occurred on Feb 10-14.  There were 50 applicants; 25 were chosen to complete the training.  Linda Knowlton completed the training this year, and reported that it was an excellent experience.  She highly recommends it to other Board members who have the time and enjoy hiking County properties.  Frank Gillespie asked why only half the applicants were accepted.  Linda said the training facility would only accommodate a limited number, so the remainder of the applicants are on a waiting list.  The folks on the wait list have been notified of the next training session, and will be given preference during the selection process for that session.

  •  
  • Open Lands Visual Artist of the Year – an OLAB committee has been assembled to review submissions and will choose the 2009 artist in early March. 
  • CCLT Conference - The 2009 Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts Conservation Policy Conference is being held March 18th-20th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Denver.  The conference is focused on excellence in conservation policy, stewardship and education.  If interested in attending any or all sessions, contact Justin Scharton at jscharton@larimer.org .
  • The Carter Lake Regatta will be the first weekend in June.  This is the 50th anniversary of the Regatta, and the Carter Lake Sail Club, which hosts the event, is hoping for 50 boats (versus 20 last year.) 
  • The Weed Board recently held their quarterly meeting.  Their primary concern is the expansion of the Weed District boundaries to include the whole county.  The Board is looking at whether a ballot issue makes sense.  The Department has 3 advisory boards.

 

  • For the past year, the Department has written a weekly “Open Spaces” column in the Explore section of the Sunday Coloradoan newspaper.  Every program in the department has taken responsibility for producing 8 – 10 articles for the column.  For the next 12 months, starting in April, we will continue the column once a month.  The Colorado will find another open space agency to share the column. 
  • The Grand Opening of the Red Mountain Open Space will be on June 6, in conjunction with the City of Ft. Collins.   All of June, there will be events at Red Mountain each weekend, coordinating with events leading up to it at the Ft. Collins museum, and culminating with a full moon hike on June 6.

 

  • All Campground host positions are all filled for the 2009 season.  New Volunteer Coordinator, CJ Cullins, advertised on Craig’s List and got 300 applications!

  • The 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Boy Scouts, is scheduled for Hermit Park in September, 2010.  Estimated attendance will be 800. 
  • A new web page featuring the Rangers was recently added to the County website.   In the future, it may have live webcams in some areas, so the public can see conditions before going there, e.g., at Devils Backbone or at reservoir boat ramps.  You may view it at:  www.larimer.org/naturalresources/rangers

  • The Weed District webpage has also been extensively updated:  www.larimer.org/weeds

 

  • The Department will again be hosting COSA ranger training, which starts March 31.  Sponsored by the Colorado Open Space Alliance, this training focuses on the special requirements of open space rangers.

  • The Glade Park fish habitat improvement project has been completed with excellent results. The project was funded by a Fishing is Fun grant through the Colorado Division of Wildlife.  Five or six deep pools, 100 feet long, were created which are already full of trout, which it is hoped will survive winters longer with better habitat.

  • Preparations are almost complete for the Department Special Events process to be incorporated into the County’s online special event permitting process.  All department special events will go through the County online process, except Hermit Park weddings, until Manager Chris Fleming and her staff have completed development of policy and procedures for such events. 

  • Chris Fleming and seasonal event planner, Amy Rissler, are working with Estes Park area businesses to coordinate wedding-related services at Hermit Park, which is already becoming a popular site for wedding ceremonies.

 

ACTION ITEMS:  None

 

PRESENTATIONS:  None

 

STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:

Park District updates and Parks Master Plan Implementation Progress report – Dan Rieves, Visitor Services Manager

§  The Glade Park fish habitat is part of a Fishing Is Fun grant.  The rest of the project will be done this summer.  Boulders were placed in the river, and deeper holes were excavated.  The fish have gravitated to the spot and are already thick in there.

§  The 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree is in negotiations about the fee, etc.  A site visit is coming up.  This is a September event, which is the height of the Hermit Park autumn season, and this event will take the entire park for several days, using all current and future campsites plus the cabins.

§  The 50th anniversary Carter Lake Regatta happens in June.  They are hoping for increased attendance.

§  Water levels:  Carter Lake will be 3 feet from full, close to maximum storage.  Horsetooth will be filled after Carter, and will also start at a high level, although continued drought could result in quick drops.

§  Zebra mussels:  The regulations, as passed, changed the wording to:  “Reservoirs will be managed in accordance with State protocol.”  The Aquatic Nuisance Management Handbook says there should be inspections at all high-risk reservoirs.  This is more fluid than if the regulation had directly stated that requirement`.  Dan is concerned about whether all other agencies will comply, since now it’s only a handbook suggestion.  If other agencies do not require inspections, it will put those who do at a disadvantage with the boating public. We have learned that the Colorado Division of Wildlife funding will be released, and an intergovernmental agreement is being negotiated.  Inspector positions will be advertised starting tomorrow.  Dan anticipates that inspections will begin April 15.  The tagging system will be in force as planned.

§  The Fishing Expo will take place on April 4 and 5.  The event will be smaller this year.  Peterson Toyota is sponsoring the event, but RV and boat dealers have backed out, due to the economic downturn.

§  C-BT water project:  Agricultural users will start pulling their water early if we get no precipitation. 

§  Two rangers have been promoted to Senior Ranger:  Cindy Claggett and Will Talbott.  Rangers were reassigned as appropriate and needed. 

§  The poacher who shot a deer at Indian Creek was convicted in court today.

§  The South Bay shower house will be done April 1; Inlet Bay shower house will be done by April 15.  These are attractive buildings which blend well with the surroundings.  Mark has managed this project.  This will be the first time showers have been available in our park areas. 

§  South Bay campground improvements are just starting.  Bids have come in much lower than expected due to the deteriorating economy, which is great for us, allowing us to stretch the available dollars.

§  The storage area southeast of the Visitor Center:  We are meeting with a neighbor to talk about how to camouflage it better.

Estes Valley campgrounds

§  Dan and Chris have met with Estes Valley Recreation and Park District (EVRPD) staff and are working on developing budget projections.  Dan notes that the Bureau of Reclamation has not yet been included in these discussions in detail; their approval will be required before we could enter into an agreement.  Also, the revenues may be restricted under Federal regulations.  If we can’t move the revenues to other areas, it’s a deal-breaker for us. 

 

Board comment:

§  Linda Knowlton expressed interest in doing a site tour up there, before the Board is asked to act on a recommendation. 

§  Barry Lewis:  When will the Board see expense data, and how that looks compared to revenue projections?  The Board also needs information about capital improvements, and how long revenues would have to be reinvested before there would be excess revenues available. 

§  Tom Miller:  People in RV campgrounds want showers.  We’ll be selling visitor services – not an outdoor camping experience.  Be realistic about this.  We will have to provide the visitor services.  After the capital improvements are done, will there be anything left to take out of it?

§  Russ Fruits:  It is a good opportunity to complement the services we offer at Hermit Park.  However, this needs to be better than “a wash.”  It needs to be a revenue generator if we’re going to do it.

§  Tom Miller:  Will we have a written agreement on capital improvements, or will these issues be addressed before we sign a contract?  This would make us a concessionaire of EVRPD. 

§  Linda Knowlton:  Suggests that the Board wait until Gary and Dan are ready to present their numbers to continue this discussion.

Staff response:

§  A Board tour will be scheduled in April or May.  Stan Gengler expects to have the new concession manager on board by June, so time is short.

§  Expense projections will be available soon.  Dan and Chris have run a model based on a per campsite cost of $58 per month, based on utility and other costs at existing campgrounds.  EVRPD wants 10% of the net revenues as a concession fee.  We would prefer to pay a flat rate, and keep the difference if we can improve on the revenues.  We did our number crunching independently of EVRPD, and came very close to their numbers, despite differing assumptions.

§  We’ll be making this decision before it gets running for this summer, so we won’t get to see it in action beforehand.

§  We expect to net almost $300,000 in excess revenue above the cost of managing it.

§  We hope that our involvement as the manager, not the owner, will shield us from the bulk of the start-up costs we have encountered at Hermit Park.

§  EVRPD has a master plan for development, and would have to provide funding for those improvements.  Lottery funds could also be used for improvements.

§  Gary’s expectation is that the Board will not approve reallocating any other department funding for this purpose.  [The Board agreed.] 

DIRECTOR’S REPORT:

Monthly update to the Board Director, Gary Buffington

USFS concessions in the Poudre Canyon :

§   The management contract for concession operators is up for re-bid in June, for over 1000 campsites in 5 counties by 2010.  Gary is talking to them about a similar arrangement to that which is being considered with EVRPD.  There are some legal issues, e.g., managing campsites outside Larimer County, and liability issues.  We might form an enterprise fund to manage sites outside Larimer County. 

§   All the Poudre Canyon campsites are up for bid, plus miles of trails.  All the facilities have already been upgraded, so it wouldn’t require significant start-up costs.

Board comment:

§   Russ Fruits:  This would be a great opportunity for PR – “the biggest provider of camping in the County, etc.”

§   Barry Lewis:  Is it all or nothing?  Can we just manage the sites located in Larimer County?

 

Staff response:

§   Gary is asking about the possibility of managing only the Larimer County sites, but the USFS may not want to split it up.  There are about 600 sites in Larimer County.  He hopes to convince USFS that Larimer County will reinvest the revenues in recreation in Larimer County and that will be appealing to them. 

 

Hermit Park - Campground 2: 

§   There are presently 26-28 sites; we hope to increase that to about 35 sites. 

§   The funding will come from two $100,000 grants plus open space sales tax revenues, which has been proposed to the Open Lands Advisory Board. 

§   Gary noted that we are moving from the acquisition phase to the development phase of the sales tax.  We’ll be spending funds at Hermit Park and at Red Mountain to get those areas open to the public and generating revenue (at Hermit Park.)  Hermit Park was subsidized $200,000 last year from Lottery and sales tax; we need to get it self-funded from revenues. 

§   Gary wants to look at expanding the allowable uses of the sales tax to appeal to voters when we go back to the voters before 2018, to better address such management needs.

 

DISCUSSION ITEMS:

Concession Policy  update – Concession Contract – Director Gary Buffington

  • See handouts.  The Inlet Bay Marina contract was distributed as a sample of a current contract; Contract/License Format summarizes the contents of the license.
  • Gary reviewed each clause of the contract.  He said future license terms will be shorter; fees may increase.  Future improvements by concessionaires cannot be permanent structures.  Permanent structures will be owned by the County and leased to the concessionaire. 
  • These licenses are written and approved by the County Attorney, and protect the interests of the County.  Gary encouraged members to review and make comments or suggestions.  Dan noted that the license makes clear the obligations of both the County and the marina operators.
  • The Horsetooth license must go out to bid again in 2020.  Gary praised Inlet Bay Marina as an exemplary and successful concessionaire, which re-invests profits into improvements of the business.
  • The County also has licenses with the Carter Lake Sail Club and the Sail & Saddle Club.  The fees have been significantly increased over the past several years under the current license for CLSC, to be closer to market value. 
  • Gary noted that funding is tight; so finding new revenue sources is imperative.  The key is to balance the “pursuit of profit” with our mission to provide accessible, quality outdoor recreation at a reasonable price.
  • Dan notes that the Carter Lake Marina license will be up for bid in 2010.  He hopes to advertise the opportunity nation-wide.  The new facilities will be touted. 

Board comment:

  • Tom Miller:  We must see more than one year of performance statistics.
  • Russ Fruits:  Is there any desire by staff to run it in-house?  The County may offer better customer service.

Staff response:

  • The Board will need to discuss the in-house management option.  Dillon Reservoir is managed by government – a large portion of the net profit is reinvested, and it is an immaculate facility.  This was an eye-opener because most marina operators say it’s a hand-to-mouth business.

Meeting adjourned at 7:40 p.m.

 

FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:

April:

§   Action Item:  Big Thompson River Parcels – Hayden Subdivision

 

Next regular meeting: April 14, 2009, Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse

 

Respectfully submitted,

Debra Wykoff

 

APPROVED:

 

 

__________________________________

Linda Knowlton, Chair