MINUTES

Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 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:

Frank Cada

Russ Fruits

Frank Gillespie

Linda Knowlton

Forrest Orswell

Barry Lewis

Mark DeGregorio

Chad LaChance

Tom Miller

 

Staff:

Gary Buffington

Dan Rieves

Mark Caughlan

Chris Fleming

Kerri Rollins

Debra Wykoff

 

Absent:

Steve Schweitzer

Vickie Traxler

 

The January 11, 2011, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Chair Linda Knowlton at 5:35 p.m.  The Minutes of the November 8, 2010, meeting were approved.

 

BOARD MEMBER REPORTS– None

PUBLIC COMMENT [Items not on the agenda]: None

 

DISCUSSION ITEMS:

GOCO Youth, Families, and the Outdoors Pilot Project – Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Manager

  • The Larimer County Department of Natural Resources has been selected to lead a groundbreaking analysis of the connections youth and families in Larimer County have with the natural environment. $130,000 has been awarded to our department to look at internal and external impacts, both within and outside Larimer County.   
  • The study, funded by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), will identify strategies for fulfilling the new goal area of the state organization’s 2010 Strategic Plan to “increase the participation by Youth and Families in all areas” of the GOCO mission.  Great Outdoors Colorado receives its funding from the Colorado Lottery. 

  • In March of 2011, Larimer County will select a consultant to perform the public involvement, inventories, gap analyses, barriers analyses, and mapping components of the study. Everything going on in Larimer County, down to the program level, will be mapped to identify gaps in services provided, or overlap, and statistical analysis will be performed.

  • The project will officially kick off in March, with completion in early spring of 2012. There will be a steering committee of representatives from agencies involved; and a stakeholders committee, including parents, etc.  Once the consultant is selected, a firmer timeline for project completion will emerge along with final cost estimates. 

 

Larimer County Natural Resources Master Plan and

Proposed Regional Land Conservation, Stewardship & Recreation Master Plan for Larimer County

 – Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Manager

  • Kerri Rollins reported on the combined meeting of the Open Lands Advisory Board with the boards of area cities to discuss a proposed regional planning process, summarized in the attached handout.   Questions for this board include timing, partnering with cities on a GOCO grant application to fund this planning effort; and whether an economic study is also justified.

 

  • The department Master Plan will serve as an overarching strategic plan for the entire department, incorporating existing master and management plans, and will include an update of the Open Lands Master Plan., now 10 years old.

 

Board comments:

Mark DeGregorio:  Agrees that the Open Lands Master Plan needs to be updated.  He also agrees with the concept of a regional plan, because the master plans of other agencies will be needing update at the same time.  However, the pilot project should be allowed to play out first, since that data is needed to develop the plans.

 

Russ Fruits:  When will the plan be completed, and how will that fit with the sales tax renewal timing?

 

Linda Knowlton:  Not imperative that all the plans be in sync – some of the other plans are still viable, like the Parks Master Plan, and do not need to be redone at this time.

 

Chad LaChance:  Will this process slow down development?  The benefit of having the Parks Master Plan in place is that development can proceed full speed.  (Kerri does not foresee a slowdown on plans currently underway.  Gary says the education center/office building at Horsetooth is waiting on a gap analysis, so won’t be delayed by this process.  Dan notes that projects are already in a queue several years out; although there is a limit to staff time to devote to all these different efforts.)

 

Linda Knowlton:  The agenda referenced a departmental plan; Kerri’s handout talks about a regional planning effort, which seems much, much larger. 

 

Big Thompson Fishing Access – Gary Buffington and Charlie Johnson, Sr. Land Agent

 

Public comment:

Walt Graul, representing Friends of Big Thompson, an umbrella organization including Loveland Fishing Club, Rocky Mountain Fly Casters and Colorado Wildlife Federation:  Membership continues to increase, indicating continued public interest in this issue.  He thanked the Board and the department for actions already taken to retain some of these properties.  He passed around several issues of national magazines which featured the Big Thompson River, to emphasize the value. 

Angling interest in this issue goes back to 2004 when the department removed the “in perpetuity” clause from these properties and put them on the public disposal list.  Of the original 12 parcels, there are 5 remaining unaddressed.  Last March they requested that Area 3 and the east parcel of Area 20 be moved to the top of the priority list because they are the largest parcels and because they look like private property.  In June, they submitted a petition with many signatures.  In November, he submitted a letter requesting an outline of the steps and process required to get this done.

The group understands the constraints involved re staff time, other priorities, etc.  Before the next sales tax, he’d like to be celebrating the successful conclusion of this process and be strong supporters of the sales tax.

He requests that Area 3 and Area 20 be signed as public property, if they cannot be addressed immediately.  He requests that this process be pursued expeditiously.

 

John Smeltzer, Colorado Wildlife Federation (CWF):  CWF looks at public access – part of their mission is to protect and maintain public angling access. Colorado now has a population of 5 million, soon to be 7 million.  Don’t underestimate the importance of protecting these areas for future residents, who are not even here yet.  He understands that budget restrictions can affect the timeline.  But they would like to see a timeline.

 

Jim Rood, Loveland Fishing Club (LFC):  Two parcels the LFC is interested in are Area 20 and Area 3.  They hope these areas will not be sold.  These two properties are considerably different than the properties in the Drake area, and they hope will be retained in full.

 

Staff presentation:

Gary noted that Jerry White retired at the end of 2010.  Charlie Johnson works for us half time, and half time for County Engineering on right of way issues; and is now handling the entire load of open space acquisitions for us.  The Board of County Commissioners supports the concept of his split time.

 

The valuations of these properties have been updated from the original assessments of value done in 2003.  We are also continuing to work with landowners on particular parcels in the Big Thompson who are interested in acquiring portions of some parcels.  He wants the LFC to know that the department is committed to public fishing access.

 

Charlie Johnson provided the following update:

  • He is meeting with property owners who had been put off until the new valuation study was done.
  • The Hayden project was completed last year.  He still gets calls from people who want to talk.
  • The signing project requires extensive interaction with adjoining landowners to reach agreement on signing. 
  • The new valuation report was completed in 2010 also. 
  • He reviewed the handout summarizing the areas which have already been addressed, as well as those which have not.  Priority areas include:

ü   Area 3, upstream from Big Thompson Elementary

ü   Area 12b, downstream from Hayden Subdivision, south of the bridge

ü   Area 17, south of Glen Comfort

ü   Area 20, Glen Haven Road

  • Public access is recommended on all the priority parcels – this may involve selling the parcel and retaining public access or retaining county ownership.
  • Gary notes that retaining ownership involves the ongoing costs of managing the property – weed control, trash control, ranger patrol, etc.
  • Gary notes that what takes time is the negotiation on the property boundaries before the property can be signed.  We must be very careful in the location of signs.
  • Property surveying is handled by County surveyors, to save money.  The County surveyors are reluctant to work on these because they have other priorities, and these properties are very difficult to accurately define.  So in lieu of formally surveying every parcel, Charlie works with adjacent property owners to reach agreement on where property boundaries should be placed.
  • Charlie confirmed with Walt that the list of priorities matches LFC priorities accurately.
  • All of these will require interaction with adjacent landowners which can become extremely time-consuming.
  • Charlie’s list includes only those parcels currently on the radar, ranked by least complicated to most complicated.  He believes that all parcels listed in the handout can be resolved in 2011.
  • The only parcel on which no public access is recommended is the Bartels property, due to significant access problems.  The adjoining landowner will take it as is without a survey.
  • Gary notes that these properties have been funded by General Fund over the years to be maintained.  Now, as General Fund is reduced, the sale proceeds are applied to maintenance.  If we don’t keep selling some of the parcels without good public access, we can’t afford to keep maintaining them into the future, which might result in closing them.
  • Dan Rieves explained that there are 153 parcels in total – we are only addressing a few with the best public access.  Over time, the other parcels will be sold to maintain the others.  But these have not been done first, because it will take a tremendous amount of time to complete all those transactions.  We’re trying to address the top priority public access parcels first.
  • Charlie noted that the Narrows has a buyer lined up, willing to purchase now.  He pointed out that the effort to sell these has only been going on since we began on Hayden – in 2008.  Prior to that, Gary was the only one working on all the preparation and approvals required, which took a lot of time to get prepared.

 

Board comments:

Frank Gillespie:  Some of the properties must be sold in order to generate the funds needed to maintain these properties, is that the point?  (Yes.)

 

Tom Miller:  The attitude of the fishing community is highly focused on the ones on this list.  These are the ones the LFC wants us to move on. 

 

Gary :  This work plan for 2011 meets the demand of the LFC, to complete all the priority properties this year.  He feels this plan meets the needs of all concerned.

 

Frank Gillespie:  Can any of the parcels on the list be moved up?  (Yes – but starting with a more difficult parcel may delay the others.)

 

Linda Knowlton:  Charlie’s list allows a longer time to work on the more complicated transactions.

 

Frank Cada:  Supports doing the easier ones first to move along more quickly.

 

Mark deGregorio:  If we retained parcel 12b, it could provide parking for access. 

 

Russ Fruits:  At no point in time will public access be lost on any of these properties, correct?

 

Gary :  Correct.  These properties are not in jeopardy.  There is a process in place for 60 day public comment before disposal, etc.

 

Frank Cada:  We want to leave a legacy for the future, so that a future Board is not starting over from scratch.

 

Linda Knowlton:  The Board already adopted Evaluation Criteria which are applied to every transaction. 

 

Tom Miller:  What action is required on this tonight? 

 

Charlie:  His time could be restricted more than this if right of way workload increases.

 

Dan:  If each of these require a 60 day public notice period, immediate action is necessary to get these moving. 

 

Linda:  If there are any objections to Charlie’s proposed work plan, speak up.

 

Chad LaChance:  Get moving on it – the Board can’t second guess Charlie’s best guess.

 

Barry Lewis:  Can we take action on a 60 day public notice period for some parcels next month?

 

Charlie:  He will tentatively plan to bring Bartels and maybe the Narrows to the next meeting. 

 

Linda:  Plan on a monthly update from Charlie, Gary or Dan.

 

Charlie:  The signing project is another component of the overall project – as discussions with landowners begin, that is when negotiations on where to place signs will also begin.

 

Gary :  This is not a land disposal process – it is a land use process.

 

Tom Miller:  If deed restrictions appear on one of these parcels, or illegal uses appear on our property, whose responsibility is it to resolve those?  (The department has been addressing illegal uses all along.)

 

Charlie:  When the county deeds a parcel, the deed includes use restrictions.

 

Linda:  What happens at the end of the 60 days is that there will be an action item, the Board will vote, and if a sale is recommended, it will go to the BCC.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION

§  Natural Resource Events for January. See website http://www.larimer.org/naturalresources.

§  Parks Advisory Board meeting dates for 2011.
 

  • Three Bells I and II closed 12/29 with lots of hard work from Charlie and Jeffrey, as well as a significant landowner donation.  A press tour, along with staff from Fort Collins and Larimer County, is being planned for the end of January.  We hope to complete all acquisition of trail ROW in 2 years.  Charlie Johnson noted the significant investment of other agencies in the Three Bells transaction.

  • Certification approval from DORA’s Division of Real Estate for Larimer County Natural Resources to hold conservation easements that claim state tax credits was received in December.  Jerry White walked us through the certification process, and we were approved on the first try.  Periodic re-certification will be required.

  • Larimer County was granted up to $120,000 by GOCO to complete a pilot project assessing youth, family and the outdoors.  A “Request for Proposals” has been posted and an interview team hopes to interview potential candidates in February.  The Board will have a full presentation in February as well.
  • Seasonal Closure of Hermit Park went into effect Dec. 21st.  Minimal push back, primarily from neighbors who like to access the park for parking during inclement weather as well as for general recreational purposes.  Are allowing people to walk into the park, but not to drive- gates have been installed and are currently closed. Has been a very good thing for wildlife- elk are using the park in force and Josh has seen mountain lion tracks.  

  • The unseasonably warm weather allowed the maintenance crew to really attack the pine beetle trees that seemed to explode all over Hermit Park this past year.  

  • The Elkhorn cabin replacement at Hermit Park is going well.  A local Estes cabin building company won the bid and has been making good progress on the rebuild.  The old cabin has been demoed and the new cabin should be completed by mid Jan.

  • All 5 of the new single stall vault toilets have finally been installed at 5 of the cabins. 

  • GOCO grant submitted for the renovation of "Hermit's Hollow" or Campground #1 at Hermit Park was successful for $200,000.  It is looking like work will begin mid September of 2011.  Although we will be generally following EDAW's design concept formed in the master plan (attached), we will be making some adjustments- i.e. no shower house and some different road alignments.  Focus will be on road improvements and a key feature of this particular campground will be catering to tent campers.  Campsites will go from 29 existing sites to a max of 42- the majority of the new sites will be "walk in" tent camping. The board will be briefed once the new concepts are more concrete.  Future improvements will not result in denser use.  Tom Miller asked how many campsites are inside the “bubble” where development may occur.
  • Park Managers Chris Fleming and Mark Caughlan are working on revamping fee structures for special events, particularly weddings at Hermit and other popular venues. The process will be streamlined to make it a simpler group use reservation with a flat fee.  Fees would go from approximately $1200 for a wedding to $500.  Managers will be working with administrative staff to look at more effective ways to market these venues.  We will get out of the “wedding planner” business, and limit our involvement to group use rental of site, or the special event process if more is requested.  Fees will drop from approximately $1200 to $500.  Linda Knowlton observed that it seems like a big drop in revenues.  Chris responded that we’ll be booking more weddings and investing a lot less time, so there will not be a negative impact on revenues.)  Gary stated that only six State Parks are “self-sufficient” – it is not realistic to expect Hermit Park to ever be 100% self-sufficient based on revenues generated.

STANDING AGENDA ITEMS

Park District updates – Dan and Chris

  • The Horsetooth projects are nearing completion.  Sunrise Swim Area will feature a natural beach – not a fine sand beach.  The facility is nearly complete and is very nice – should be popular with Ft. Collins residents.

  • Eagle Campground Camper Services Building:  Valley Block went out of business after our contractor had reached an agreement with them.  When we ordered the block, it was not available.  It is a 2-sided block, smooth on one side, rough on the other, which is a custom block from other vendors.  This has slowed the shower facility project down, but it should be done by the time we need to use it.

  • Horsetooth office building and nature center is still at least a couple years out.  So the Horsetooth modular building will be replaced to provide improved office quarters for the Horsetooth staff.  The current facility is infested by rodents, and unacceptable for staff use.

  • Carter Lake Marina license:  Due to ongoing contract revisions by Reclamation and the County Attorney, the contract was not completed by 12/31, as planned.  So a contract extension to April has been executed.

  • Annual meeting with Carter Lake Sail Club was last week, and went extremely well.  The new Commodore is ambitious and motivated.  The plan for the year includes replacing some of the docks and slips, as well as clubhouse improvements and the breakwater.  The club is doing well, and is now beginning to reinvest in its infrastructure.  Other topics discussed included opportunities for youth education.

  • Tim Reed of Bellevue, who brought to our attention several issues with the public process used in one of the Horsetooth projects, has motivated us to improve our public process and stakeholder involvement.  Tim is sitting on a committee with staff to develop new procedures.
  • The Larimer County Sheriff’s award ceremony also recognizes external entities for feats of heroism – this year the ranger group was honored for efforts during the _______ fire.

  • Also honored was a seasonal ranger, Aaron Bersheid, who was the first responder at the plane crash on State Land near Chimney Hollow recently.  Rangers Jacob Wells and Will Talbott also responded.

  • Seasonal hiring will include a volunteer camp host supervisor for Estes and Hermit.

  • We are recruiting groups to help with maintenance of the Big Thompson parks and public parcels.  Trout Unlimited is the first group to be signed up for 2011.  New signs are completed for the existing parks up the Big Thompson.

 

DIRECTOR’S REPORT

  • The department is in great shape financially, going into 2011.  And this is the first time Chris has a full staff going into the season.

  • Top Ten Events in 2010 – see handout.  This list was sent to the County Commissioners to highlight accomplishments of the past year.  The list includes conservation projects, capital improvements, the Estes campground opening, $500,000 in grants.  No other county in the state or in this region of the US has this kind of volume, acreage, etc. to compare.

  • Gary thanked the Board for their ongoing service as 2011 begins.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION

Russell Fruits made, and Forrest Orswell seconded, a motion to enter into Executive Session, pursuant to C.R.S. 24-6-402(4)(a), for discussion pertaining to the purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale of any real or personal property interest.

The Board entered Executive Session at approximately 7:45 p.m. to discuss the Carter Lake Marina concession license.

 

Russell Fruits made, and Tom Miller seconded, a motion to exit Executive Session; the Board exited Executive Session at 8:05 p.m.

 

Artist of the Year

Gary solicited a board member to work on the Artist of the Year selection process for 2011.  Forrest Orswell volunteered.

 

The next regular scheduled meeting will be on February 8, 2011, at 5:30 p.m., at the Bison Visitor Center, 1800 South County Road 31, Loveland, CO.

 

The meeting adjourned at 8:10 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Debra Wykoff

 

APPROVED:

 

 

 


Linda Knowlton, Chair