Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.,
Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building, 200 W. Oak St, Ft. Collins, CO
The January 10, 2012, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Vice-Chair Barry Lewis at 5:36 p.m. The minutes of the November 8, 2011, meeting were approved.
GENERAL INFORMATION: (Questions – 5 min.)
§ Natural Resource Events for this month: See website http://www.larimer.org/naturalresources.
§ Artist of the Year unveiling ceremony will be on Friday, January 13, at 3 pm at the courthouse, at the County Commissioners’ office. The artist for 2011 was photographer, Jim Digsby.
§ Artist of the Year Subcommittee – We are asking for one PAB member to serve on this subcommittee. The time commitment is a few hours total in February at a meeting to review applications and select an artist. Frank Gillespie volunteered to serve on the committee. Meegan Flenniken will notify Frank of the arrangements.
§ Heron Lakes property acquisition closed. Phase 2 will involve acquisition of recreation rights to the small reservoir, plus a trail easement. …Ask Charlie for details. Gary noted that we may be involved in recreation management.
Review of Current Annual Permits by Type and Price
Shannon Barnes, Visitor Services and Campground Reservations Specialist, reviewed the types of annual permits and the locations at which they can be purchased in the community.
Dan explained the steps involved in producing the annual permits: Artwork must be designed, the permit is produced, then the entire inventory for the year is delivered, and issued in bulk to each park area, then to individual vendors. This is cumbersome to manage. A wallet card would eliminate the need for some types of permits. The printing machine allows inventory management. It costs $8000. Dan also intends to look at any other feasible options. We hope to simplify the whole process, including the many types of permits.
The public objects to the windshield sticker and the calendar-year permit. We are looking at changing this along with several other changes – getting away from windshield stickers, etc. However, before considering specific changes, we need some input from the public. Today a public survey was posted on the County website to solicit that input. The survey addresses these questions:
A decision must be made by May, because that is the deadline to initiate the paper permit ordering process.
Board and staff comments:
Frank Cada: Are you considering changing the prices? Why are we discussing this now?
Dan: This is more about the format of the permits, not about fee
increases, which will be addressed later in the year, if any. Dan explained
Frank Gillespie: How would a wallet card be displayed?
Dan: It would attach to a hangtag.
Rob Harris: At a high level, how much of the annual revenue is annual permits, day permits or camping?
Dan: He will get those numbers and route them to the board via email. Good weather is a friend of day passes – lots of people coming out to fish or visit the swim beach.
Gary: Revenues from day permits far exceed those from annual permits.
Linda Knowlton: She would like to see us do whatever generates the most revenue for the County. That is her primary concern – not the ease of use for the users or for staff. If the cards are so much better to use, why isn’t State Parks doing it?
Dan: We can make the “cultural” change required for this more easily than the large organization like State Parks. There are some management issues that have to be addressed – there will be multiple years of permits in the field at the same time. We cannot rely on all visitors going through one entrance.
Frank Cada: Can we talk to State Parks about whether the rolling year was a good decision? How did it impact revenues?
Dan: It depends on who you ask. The “brass” think it was a great decision; the field staff who must deal it are less enthused. Revenues remained static; but their customers are more satisfied – they are able to buy them at their convenience. The sales curve has flat-lined, instead of the bell-curve.
Frank Cada: If there is no impact to revenue, will staff support the change?
Dan: Behind-the-scenes staff that deal with inventory, etc., will support it. Field staff will be less supportive.
Frank Gillespie: A card is transferable among users – will we lose revenue as a result?
Dan: We haven’t yet figured out the answer to that. We want to “straighten some pipes” – simplify the system.
Rob Harris: Why do we have different permits for different prices?
Dan: Audit trail. Staff thinks that this will have to be retained. The cards will have a programmable magnetic strip, but we won’t have scanners available in the parks. The only way it works is if there is a ‘preferred member’ only access. Controlled entrances force the use of cards by all customers.
Mark DeGregorio: Allowing transferable permits would be simpler – at RMNP, they are now checking ID’s on all cards, because their cards are not supposed to be transferable. They retain 80% of the entrance revenues. It has made a huge a difference in long term maintenance, but does not impact operating budgets.
Dan: The question is: How much would we have to charge for a transferable permit to avoid revenue loss?
Linda Knowlton: What happens next? How will the survey be publicized?
Dan: Press release went out today. Every permit sold has a sticker on it requesting input and giving the web address. The survey will be available online through March. In the meantime, the staff is continuing to research the options and various issues involved. The survey results will be presented in April, and a decision will be made on whether to stick with paper permits for another year.
Ron Kainer: We might add to the survey: Do people enjoy removing the annual permit from their windshield? It’s very difficult to get them off. On the other hand, paddling permits won’t stick to the smooth outside of a kayak.
Dan: Some people have windshields that are held together by annual permit glue!
Thompson Flood Parcels – Charlie
Johnson, Sr. Land Agent – 15 minutes
Charlie updated the Board as follows:
Board and staff comments;
Frank Gillespie: Why is the gate to Narrows Park closed? What other areas are closed in the winter?
Dan: It is closed in the winter. Also closed are Hermit Park, Forks Park, Glade Park and a few other areas. These close at varying times.
STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:
Park District updates and Parks Master Plan Implementation Progress report
§ Water levels: Snow packs are at 85%; downstream reservoirs are full, so we should have a good water year.
§ Trees were moved to create a visual barrier at S. Bay in preparation for the new campsites.
§ No boat inspections until March 1. Then it will again be 7 days a week.
§ Youth Mentor Fishing Tournament will be on May 5, 2012, at Horsetooth.
§ Dip and Dash events at Horsetooth: Every Wed. at 6 pm during the summer – a swim and a run. There is a surge in marathons, and we are trying to address that demand.
§ There will be a triathlon at Horsetooth this year – a week-long series of events of all distances. The fee will be $40,000. This will be the first large-scale event of this type at our parks. South Bay swim beach will be closed for the weekend.
Board and staff comments:
Frank Cada: Any winter races?
What parking areas are open? [Blue Sky and Soderberg are the only parking
areas currently open, unless closed for mud.]
Dan explained that we try to
schedule special events around normal recreation use – like early morning
starts, avoiding heavily used areas, etc. But we agreed that this one was
worth trying to test the waters on large events. We don’t anticipate a huge
impact to most recreation, except the swim beach. We want to be very careful
about what type of events we allow and how many. We do not want to overwhelm
our facilities or our visitors.
Frank Cada: How do you handle
Mark: There will be shuttles
running from the stadium – no event participants will be permitted to park
Ron Kainer: Will these races
involve the county road?
Mark: Yes – these are approved
through the County Special Events process.
§ Ron: Are they respecting the 30 day limitation?
Dan: The County allows 2 in a 30
day period impacting the same county road. Our main concern is on the
“pinchpoint” roads like those going by the reservoirs.
§ Josh Wagoner, Maintenance technician at Hermit Park, was recognized as Larimer County Employee of the Month.
§ There was poaching at Pinewood on Thanksgiving Day of a trophy buck – we’re working with the Division of Wildlife on that case.
§ We are working on revamping some training programs.
§ Dan and Chris are doing an update for the Estes Valley Parks & Recreation Board on the properties we manage for them (Mary’s Lake and East Portal.)
Seasonal hiring is getting started.
§ Field Manager is a component of the campground reservation system contract. We are negotiating a new 5 year contract. Field Manager is the onsite camper registration component, which was tested at the Estes area campgrounds in 2011. Roll-out to the entire park system is planned for 2013. For 2012, no day passes will be sold at Hermit Park – we will generate those permits from the Field Manager system. Shannon will also be testing Field Manager at our main entrances at the reservoirs on a selective basis. Dan reviewed some of the other multitude of sales options available through Field Manager for potential future use.
§ Automated pay station / Iron Ranger – a machine has been purchased for a pilot project at Horsetooth Mountain. We will retain the paper permit self-serve system as well to test public response. The automated pay station will accept only card payments – no cash or checks. The machines cost $8000, and there are other associated costs. It is solar powered and runs off a cell signal to transfer data.
§ Phase 2 parking lot at Carter Lake Marina is completed. Electrical service has been run down to the connection point for the new marina slips committed in the new marina contract. We have met our obligation a year in advance.
§ The Parks Master Plan was written in 2007, and suggests a 5-year update. However, the plan is still current and relevant, and the Bureau of Reclamation agrees with staff that no update is needed.
Board and staff comments:
Linda Knowlton: A plan should be updated when needed – not on a schedule.
Barry Lewis: Is there enough left in the plan to last another 5 years?
Dan: Projects will be slowing down somewhat, but if we start to bump into that, we’ll address the need for an update at that time.
Glen Doughty: What he hears us saying is that there is no need to update in 2012 – not that we’re making a commitment to keep it another 5 years – correct? Let’s agree for 2012, and re-look at it next year.
Dan: Yes – but a new plan will be required after 10 years.
Linda Knowlton: Let’s devote a meeting to reviewing the plan from start to finish.
Barry Lewis: Part of that process would be to check off the projects already done. Many of the top priority projects have been completed.
Glen Doughty: He agrees that is a good idea, sometime during 2012. Then the board can make a decision that it’s not worth updating all the demographic data, etc. This would document that the issue was addressed.
Dan: Certain data in the plans may be outdated – like demographics. But the implementation schedule and the plans for development are still highly relevant. He will work on a process to do that, and bring that to a future meeting.
Capital improvements being considered:
Board and staff comments:
· Both Commissioners Johnson and Donnelly are up for re-election this year.
· Ten million dollars must be taken from other County sources to replace the jail tax which failed. How to replace the $238,000 in General Fund allocated to this department is a challenge to be addressed over the next three years.
· Glen: The obvious revenue triggers to pull include permit prices, special events, and what else? He requests additional discussion of fee structure history for the past several years.
· Gary: One example is the increased revenues from new facilities like the additional full service campsites. The nationwide the theme is not to raise fees, but to improve services and increase visitation for those services. We have already reduced staff and budgets – there is a limit to how much you can do that before it impacts public services and safety. When the open space sales tax is renewed, it must include funding for park operations as well.
· The February meeting is canceled.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:50 pm.
Barry Lewis, Vice-Chair
Next regular meeting: March 13, 2012, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., at the Bison Visitor Center, 1800 S. County Road 31, Loveland, CO 80537
Public can view agenda and minutes at www.larimer.org/parks