Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.,
Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building, 200 West Oak, Ft. Collins, CO
Barry Lewis, Vice Chair Tom Miller
Russell Fruits Frank Cada
Gary Buffington, Natural Resources Director
Mark Caughlan, Resource Manager
Chris Fleming, Resource Manager
Charlie Johnson, Sr. Land Agent
Dan Rieves, Visitor Services Program Manager
Debra Wykoff, Business Operations Manager
The March 10, 2009, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Chair Linda Knowlton, at 5:45 p.m. The minutes of the March 10, 2009, meeting were approved.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Items not on the agenda
Bobbie Allen, a resident of the Big Thompson Canyon, on CR 43: She is opposed to public access to County owned property adjacent to her property on the north fork of the Big Thompson River. She notes that this area is not maintained by the County. It is secluded enough for people to commit illegal acts, including these, which have in fact occurred: A suicide, killing a baby bear, illegal camping, campfires, dumping garbage, blocking driveways, trespassing, urinating, defecating, etc. When property owners are gone, it is obvious to passersby. One fifth wheel had to be sold because it was repeatedly vandalized. We think that this area should be closed permanently to public access.
Big Thompson River parcels – Hayden Subdivision
§ Natural Resources Director Gary Buffington reviewed with the Board six options identified for County properties located near the Hayden Subdivision, and the staff recommendation. Both documents are attached.
The staff recommendation is as
Larimer County retains ownership of flood parcels from the Highway 34 right-of-way through the Big Thompson River corridor to a boundary fence on the east side of the river. A wildlife friendly boundary fence will be placed at the top of the river bank. Other lands east of the boundary fence will be sold to adjacent, neighboring or previous landowners or at public auction.
There will be no other County-owned parcels retained in this area with the exception of two parcels (parcels #1 and #2) that are located at the farthest northeast end of the Hayden Subdivision nearest the bridge, which have a deed restriction retaining the parcels in public ownership until 2018. Therefore, there would be no public access to the river within the Hayden Subdivision.
§ Barry Lewis: What is the actual placement of the border fence?
§ Gary: He and Charlie Johnson have walked it – there will be obstacles to maneuver around. The precise location will depend on the contours of the terrain.
§ Russ Fruits: How will that affect future wildlife habitat improvements along that stretch of river?
Gary: We will have to take that into account if/when improvement projects are being planned.
PUBLIC COMMENT :
Dallas Maurer, resident of Hayden Subdivision in Drake, CO:
The plan sounds pretty good, but the major question for residents is this: Why is it so important to provide public access right here at this spot – 700 ft. of rocky bank, overhanging trees, and difficult access. There are only two possible places to access the river along there – in summer, you can’t cross the water safely anywhere along there. There are 17 miles of open public access along the river. He has never seen a fisherman come up on the bank there, because you cannot access any fishing area along there from the east side. Anybody who loses a $1.98 fly there should not be risking their life to retrieve their fly. There are several easily accessible fishing spots nearby.
The best solution is to allow fishermen access to the high water level of the day. If they should happen to crawl out of the river there, nobody’s going to arrest them or sue them. But if there is public access there, others besides fishermen will also use it for other activities, including relieving themselves in the bushes. Why create an easement to be a harassment to homeowners along there? He doesn’t know any homeowner who has an issue with fishermen – it’s only with the general public. Why should there be easement which residents will have to maintain? He thanks the Board and staff for their hard work. This has been going on for 18 months already. Please consider Option 3.
Marcelene Young, resident of Loveland: She is here to speak for a public park. Once you get rid of a public park, you never get it back. The City and County are in need of all the public park land they can get their hands on. A porta-potty will provide a public restroom, and will cost less than the fence proposed. This has flat land that children can play on, picnic on, play horseshoes, there are picnic benches under the trees. This is a park for the residents – are they going to keep it for themselves? It’s public land. Why shouldn’t the rest of us also enjoy recreating there? We paid for it for all these years. Now you want to take it away from us.
Terrible things happened up there. You could have a memorial park up there. You could stand up and do something about their memory there. I feel sorry for the people of Drake if they’re going to own that land and then there it sits. Only one person who owns a particular parcel can enjoy it. There are people here who have volunteered to maintain this land. The people of the County own the property. But they didn’t know the property existed. If people knew, they would be up there – boy scouts, girl scouts. The minutes of the last meeting did not mention the fact that the County owns the property. We already paid for it. This is not something you can sell off to prior owners – it belongs to all of us. Don’t dismiss this property as if it can make us a little money! Are you in the red? Then sell something that is actually worth something – not these little parcels.
Joyce Kilmer, resident of the Big Thompson Canyon: This lady says she’s from Loveland; we’re from the Canyon – we live there, we know the problems. The Forks park area is close to the Hayden area. If the fishermen are serious, they should keep that park open and clean all year long. It’s closed part of the year – that’s what creates the potty problem. Why not make a handicap access in the Forks Park? If a fisherman gets a fly caught, why can’t he go to the homeowner and ask permission to retrieve it? Why can’t the fishermen and the homeowners agree on fly retrieval? At the March 30 meeting, it was said that the road is public. Yes it is, but when you get out of your car, you are on private property. [Full text of these and other comments was submitted for the public record.]
Gib Dunning, Hayden Subdivision: You are going to antagonize the 6 or 7 residents who live there fulltime, just for the sake of a few feet on the east bank, that has no really advantage to the fishermen.
Adam Buna, Narrows Park neighbor: The folks who live along the river are reasonable people. Please try to see things from their perspective. The public can be very intrusive and annoying. He has “no trespassing” signs, but people tear them down. Dogs run loose. People don’t use the restroom, they go by their cars. People come out of the water and stand on his patio to fish, and insist they have the right to do that. They hop over his fence. People get their lines tangled, then break off the branches on his side to free their lines. Even with the 10 ft. easement, the conflicts will continue, because people will walk up on top where it’s easier, so the trespass issues will continue. Lots of the license plates are from Greeley or Boulder – outside Larimer County. The fishermen on the whole have been great. It’s the others who leave trash, etc. He picks up trash along the river because no one else is doing it. The fishing groups do a clean up once a year maybe. It’s more of a problem than it seems. People come right into his yard like they have a right to. Don’t allow public access on the east side of the river.
Maggie Claser, Hayden Subdivision: She has cleaned up weeds and trash along that 700 feet for the last 6-7 years. There’s no dumpster at the highway department, so where does she put the weeds? Where did the fence idea come from? Two weeks ago, she was at a public meeting and no one mentioned a fence. She’s losing trust. There hasn’t been good stewardship by the County – that has been noted over and over. It’s not the fishermen who cause the problems. Let the homeowners have the property, since they take care of it already. They put up with no restrooms, trash, etc. If you want public access, keep the existing parks open and take care of them.
Cherie Stroh: Gary Buffington was talking about most of the vegetation is on the west side – but it’s on the east side. We are residents; we are concerned about gang members, taggers, rapists, etc. She quoted from the newspaper about Sealy Lake. We could care less about lost flys. She complained about the bias demonstrated by Chad LaChance and Tom Miller as members of the board, and by Walt Graul.
Walt Graul, Loveland Fishing Club: I’m really glad to see the staff did not recommend the easements. Whatever the recommendation is, it would be appreciated if there was a specific statement of intent to keep the properties in perpetuity. Thanks to the staff and Board for your interest and patience on this issue.
Bill Thompson: This river is one of the prime fly fishing rivers in the state and the world. One problem with fishing on pockets, as is done when fishing the Big Thompson River, is that every access point is really important. There are big population increases coming to the Front Range in the next 50 years. Please remember that with regard to the other parcels, yet to be considered; and retain public and fishing access.
Carolyn Dunning: She quoted the Homeowners’ Bill of Rights, Art. X, adapted from Amendment IV of the United States Constitution: The right of the people to be secure in their homes, properties, reasonable lifestyles, privacy, and protective insulation, against unreasonable intrusion; to freedom from a government’s telling them how to live their lives; to enjoy their properties; and to the assurance of a peaceful retreat from the demands of the outer world, shall not be violated.
William Stroh: He is a fisherman, who has fished all over the world. He keeps hearing that this stretch is like gold medal water. That means you have the chance to catch trophy trout. There are several rivers in the state which are so designated, but not the Big Thompson – it is wild trout water. This is a put-n-take, catch-n-kill area. Keep the integrity of the river up as a priority. Keep the habitat clean. The fish can’t survive in dirty water. Residents just want to live there in peace.
Bobby Allen: CR 43. [She commented earlier because her area is not in the Hayden Subdivision.] Mary Ann Ordway, neighbor, asked her to tell this: While Mary Ann was living alone there, someone camped there for 3 weeks on County property below her property, and she was frightened and intimidated. She hasn’t seen many fishermen there. She has never met anyone who caught anything there.
Marge Rady: Anyone know we have rattlesnakes there? Not safe there for kids to play. Horseshoe pits were put in by residents – Gary Buffington said it was an encroachment on County property. Yet people come in and park – that’s not encroachment?
Joyce Kilmer: Every year the Big Thompson Canyon association does a clean up all along the river.
Frank Cada: Thanks to Gary and staff. He’s been thinking a lot about it, and talking to the public about it. For 30 years, things went along without complaint. But as soon as the parcels were up for sale, all these issues arose from fishermen and landowners. Perhaps it is a fear of losing something. But some of these places were not of high value to the public, and the department lacked the resources to put into it. If we’d been able to set down some regulations about how the land was to be used, e.g., limited parking, access boundaries, etc., perhaps it would have reduced the level of conflict. He’s hearing a lot of input that this is public land and fishermen don’t want to give up any access. It is precious. A few generations from now, as population increases, this land could be very valuable. On the other hand, we must take into consideration the needs of the landowners. We do need rules. If there are trespass issues, call the sheriff. Those who use it should all pitch in to pick up the trash. Once we sell it, it’s gone. There’s no going back. It will be much more expensive to buy it back in future years.
Barry Lewis: We’ve got a broad range of options available. Every option has gone a long way to meet the needs of homeowners and is an improvement over what exists today. All of these address the privacy concerns and other issues that have come up over the years. The staff recommendation has gone very far to meet the needs of the landowners.
Dave Coulson: If the state didn’t have a set of archaic laws, this situation would not exist. In most states, the public owns the river and the land over which it flows. Why is it so important to retain an access? This is why: If there is trespass, the homeowner should call the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which is required to respond. For trespass, the fisherman will lose his license in 75% of all states. That’s why they need an easement, to ensure that they are not trespassing if they set foot on land on the east side of the river. Any time we have an opportunity to preserve public access to the river, we have a duty to do so.The fence is to address the concerns of the landowners, it is a compromise proposal to protect private property and define the boundary between public and private property.
Linda Knowlton: What is the purpose of the fence?
Gary: If there is no clear boundary, how does the public know it is trespassing – the purpose of the fence is to make a clear definition between public and private.
Russ Fruits: When this debate first began, he drove up there to see it. Just looking at it, he assumed that the area along the river was private property. Most fishermen never realized it was public land, due to no trespass signs, and private property like picnic tables, etc. He thinks land for recreation will become much more valuable in the future. He would like to preserve what we own because in the future it may be worth it to redevelop it for recreation.
Forrest Whittaker: The Colorado Division of Wildlife’s argument about the reasons to retain public access is well-reasoned and should be taken into consideration.
Tom Miller: He thanks the staff for having the courage to take on this issue after 30 years of neglect. He is a member of the Loveland Fishing Club. He doesn’t want to taint the Board’s deliberation. But he doesn’t think that has anything to do with it. His 30 years as a park ranger are far more important to his views. His job as a Board member is to listen to the public and try to do the best thing for the public, for all his constituents.
This land was purchased with public funds. The taxpayers support and maintain the road and other infrastructure already there. To deny the public access to property which we already own is a mistake. No access on the subdivision side is a set-up for trespass. There are circumstances when to fish it you must go in from the homeowner side.
Thinking of future generations, with exponential population growth, we need quality outdoor recreation space. If we wanted to buy it today with open space sales tax, we couldn’t because it would be too valuable. But we already own it. The City of Loveland just bought 100 ft. of access downstream, and we’re considering selling what we already own. The County has a responsibility to see that the original purpose is carried out. It was a terrible, tragic event that led to this; the property was purchased to ensure that others are not harmed in the same way again in the future. If the county doesn’t protect them, then who will? In the interests of future generations, he believes the County should retain the property. He thinks there are other ways to address the various management issues, besides selling the property.
Linda Knowlton: Why is the staff not recommending retaining public access via the public road on the east side?
Gary: Inviting the public into a private subdivision will lead to conflicts. To enforce in that area will take more County resources, which we don’t have. If on foot, one could cross the bridge, access the bank from the two parcels which will be retained, and then fish up the river. But it would not be vehicle access. When vehicles are allowed in, it also invites other problem issues.
Barry Lewis: This pedestrian-only access would eliminate the types of problems the homeowners have complained about.
Dave Coulson: Is it true that the staff does not think this area has potential as a public park?
Gary: No – we cannot afford an additional public park to support on the river. Larimer County is not solely responsible for providing park areas in the Big Thompson Canyon. There are other park areas (City of Loveland, USFS) in the canyon as well, which meet the public need.
Tom Miller: Proposes leasing the property instead of selling it.
Gary: Then you have to enforce the terms of each lease, which becomes more labor- and cost- and time-intensive.
Frank Cada: That’s only 1.5 acres of land along the river in the Hayden area.
Chad LaChance: He will abstain from voting, in acknowledgment of the perceived conflict of interest represented by his business interests in real estate and guided fishing. If it were up to him, he thinks the County should retain the whole thing, and fence it from the edge of the road inside the subdivision, to prevent private encroachments. The county should not sell any property it owns. But, in the event that the County decides to sell the property, this is a reasonable compromise.
Frank Cada: He thinks the County should retain all the parcels, with some concessions to the landowners to address the problems they have had.
Dave Coulson: He would like to represent the Parks Advisory Board, to speak for the Board at the meeting of the County Commissioners when this is presented. To strengthen the Board’s recommendation, Chair Linda Knowlton, urged Board members to attend that meeting and speak to the issue.
STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:
Park District updates and Parks Master Plan Implementation Progress report – Dan Rieves, Visitor Services Manager; Christine Fleming, Blue Mountain Resource Manager; Mark Caughlan, Horsetooth Resource Manager
§ Zebra mussels: The inspections start tomorrow, April 15. The necessary training of staff and inspectors finally occurred on Monday. There may be some boat ramps that aren’t covered initially. By early May they expect to have the schedule figured out. It has been unclear how or whether the cost of supplies for the program will be covered.
§ The Fishing Expo: This event provides great interaction with the public. Despite the rotten weather, the fishermen packed in. The turn-out was good. This was the fifth year we’ve done it. The first year, there were 300 people. There were 3400 people in two days this year. We are being successful in reaching the target audience. The economy was a big factor this year. New boat sales are down 48%; but the tackle industry is still doing well. The fishing population dropped 7% over the past several years; but people who fish do so more often, and spend more. For the future, Mark hopes to find more sponsors for next year for features like the fish tanks, which were very popular – but they cost $6000 to rent.
§ Chad LaChance: Division of Wildlife biologists are important participants, because of their expertise in the local fisheries.
§ Tom Miller: Praised Mark and Gary for this neat PR program for the department.
§ Shower facilities: South Bay shower facility should be done tomorrow. Hope to open in two weeks. Inlet Bay will be done at the beginning of May. Mark would be glad to give a tour.
§ Camp sites at South Bay: Bid came in $80-90,000 lower than expected, which is a very encouraging development, and helps stretch available dollars.
§ Open House for the climbing community: Open house to discuss improvements planned at Rotary Park was held last week, and went well.
§ Seven self serve vaults were stolen over a two week period. Six people were caught, and will be charged with felonies. $15,000 restitution will be requested. All the vaults were recovered.
§ We are all now working on budgets for 2010.
§ Online special events process has been implemented. All of our special events will go through it.
§ Ranger field staff have moved to the new offices at the Carter Lake Marina.
§ Carter Lake Marina will open late this year, due to the sudden and unexpected death of owner, Maggie Waldburger, last month. Tom Miller requested that the Board send a card.
§ There has been one DUI arrest already at Carter.
§ Hermit Park Campground 2 renovation is underway.
§ There is a large Hewlett Packard volunteer project to move the horseshoe pits to a new location.
§ A new wedding marketing brochure has been developed to promote Hermit Park as a wedding site.
§ Dan and Chris have been working with Estes Valley Recreation and Park District (EVRPD) on the campground management proposal. Staff met with Stan Gengler again last week.
§ A more detailed proposal will probably be brought to the Board next month.
§ These are RV campgrounds – 250 campsites total.
§ Gary explained that the department may lose its General Fund allocation over the next several years due to other demands on County funding. So it will become imperative to find replacement sources of revenues. He thinks that the Estes campground management option will generate in the range of $100,000 in additional revenues each year.
§ Dan Rieves reported that we did our own management modeling and budget forecasting, and our numbers came out very close to the numbers estimated by EVRPD.
§ Staff continues working with EVRPD on start-up costs, who pays for what, equipment, etc. We are also negotiating the formulas for how revenues are split. 60% will go back into improvements at the facilities. A percentage will be retained by EVRPD; and the balance will go to the County.
§ EVRPD wants to have a partner determined by June. Contract must be signed by autumn. We would assume management responsibility in January, if not before.
Linda Knowlton: Will a PAB tour be scheduled before the May meeting, as requested?
Tom Miller: He would like to look at it before making a decision.
Gary and Dan agreed to make arrangements for a Board tour, and to provide a map for self-tour for those who can’t go on guided tour.
Meeting adjourned at 8:20 p.m.
FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
May: PAB tour of Estes Valley campgrounds – Date TBD
Next regular meeting: May 12, 2009, Bison Visitor Center, 1800 SCR 31, Loveland, CO.