Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

MINUTES

Tuesday, August 9, 2011 , 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.,

Bison Visitor Center , 1800 South County Road 31, Loveland, Colorado

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.

Please call Deb at 619-4567 if you are unable to attend a meeting.  Votes require a quorum.  Thanks!

 

Present:

Frank Cada

Glen Doughty

Russ Fruits

Frank Gillespie

Rob Harris

Ron Kainer

Linda Knowlton

Barry Lewis

Forrest Orswell

 

Staff:

Gary Buffington

Sue Burke

Mark Caughlan

Chris Fleming

Charlie Johnson

Dan Rieves

 

Absent:

Mark DeGregorio

Steve Schweitzer

 

The August 9, 2011, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Chair Russell Fruits at 5:36 p.m.  The minutes of the July 12, 2011, meeting were approved.

 

Board Member Reports - none

 

PUBLIC COMMENT: Items not on the agenda - None

 

GENERAL INFORMATION: 

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

  • Department Volunteer Boards summer picnic – 8/24 at Horsetooth Reservoir South Bay Swim Beach
  • Larimer County Environmental Stewardship Award nominations are due 8/31.  You can nominate on line at www.larimer.org/boards/eab/Awards/awards.htm The awards acknowledge individuals and organizations in Larimer County who have undertaken activities that demonstrate exceptional stewardship of the environment.  
  • Open Lands Small Grants for Community Partnering applications are due 3pm on 9/9/11 and are available at http://larimer.org/openlands/smallgrants.htm   Board members were asked to pass the word out to groups who might be interested.  $20,000 available in $2,000 increments.
  • COSA Conference reminder – Glenwood springs Sept 19-21, registration coming out soon.  There will be an emphasis on sessions for Board and Commission members. Gary Buffington invited Parks Advisory Board to attend and to RSVP to him. He is offering two scholarships.

 

DISCUSSION & ACTION ITEMS

Big Thompson Flood Parcels – Charlie Johnson, Sr. Land Agent
In 1976, after the Big T flood, Larimer County acquired 153 parcels on the Big Thompson River.  The County is now in the process of disposing of some of the parcels, or trading them for fishing access, etc.  Many parcels have also been retained for public access.

 

Gary and Charlie Johnson toured the area this week. Surveys of the Narrows area are in process, and must happen before anything else can. Survey crews are being used exclusively now by Engineering for road work. Once they have the opportunity, they will be back on the Big Thompson properties.

60-day comment period ends tonight on Areas 12b and 20. Staff recommendations follow:

 

Area 12b – Drake – South of the bridge over the North Fork of the Big Thompson River

Area 12b, Recommendation #1: 

Potential sale of portions of this property to previous and adjacent landowners with retention of a 10’wide fee simple strip above the top of bank for public access. 

 

Board and staff comment:

The County does not own to the center of the river; the river and across are USFS property.  No parking is available on site, but is available nearby.  Possible encroachments on one parcel would be resolved by sale. Out of the five parcels, interest in possible sale has been expressed by two parties.

Area 12b, Recommendation #2:

That Parks Advisory Board vote for formal adoption of this parcel as requested by the Loveland Fishing Club. 

 

Board and staff comment: Discussion followed as to what “formal adoption as requested by the Loveland Fishing Club” means and whether issues of sale and adoption on this property need to be separated. The Loveland Fishing Club has asked the county to adopt certain areas to ensure they remain in public access. This “buffer adoption” is a variation on what the Club has requested, and this parcel is a priority area for it. Gary advised the club prefers retention of this parcel; however, if the retained buffer assures public access, and the rest is surplus land which won’t be used, the surplus property should be sold. The Club has always appreciated the efforts to maintain public access. We would need to fence and/or mark buffer boundaries for clear demarcation. Deed restrictions include: no camping, no storage of vehicles, no commercial activity,  in perpetuity. Jim Roode, from Loveland Fishing Club and Friends of the Big Thompson, says the fishing club is fine with this sale and conditions.

 

Text Box: Linda Knowlton made, and Forrest Orwell seconded, a motion that the Board support Recommendation #1 as written and Recommendation #2 that the Parks Advisory Board vote for adoption of this buffer as requested by the Loveland Fishing Club.  There was no discussion.  The motion passed.  

Area 20 – Glen Haven Road – Large flat area

 

Area 20, Recommendation #1:

Retain the entire parcel for public access.

 

Board and staff comment:

This recommendation would allow fishing to the center of the river, the property boundary. There could be trespass issues during river fishing. Current parking is on private property. Negotiations with Mr. Chenowith, adjacent property owner, need to occur. Ninety percent of the parcel is in the flood plain/floodway. One portion could allow parking for 4-8 cars, with good line of site down the road. There would be no need for fencing. Linda asked cows and grazing issues if fence is taken down. Charlie advised fencing is our prerogative since Colorado law is exclusionary, requiring the property owner to exclude cows. Fencing the center of the river would make fishing access difficult. Gary advised negotiation could allow grazing access. Barry Lewis thought that at the last PAB meeting, concensus was there was no problem with cattle access. Dan Rieves stated the history on this property is of responsible grazing. That could change with change of ownership. If grazing continues the same, it is fine; if grazing rate, numbers, etc. change, there could be bank damage. Frank Cada asked what the maintenance requirements would be for a parking area. Gary said build it, fence, and sign.    

 

Public comment on Area 20, Recommendation #1:

Beverly Stroble, adjacent property owner:  Presented copies of her comments which she read (attached).  She also stated disappointment with the process for disposition of these properties which has been confusing to canyon residents. Their biggest concerns are noxious weeds and trees which hang over their property and buildings. They oppose the County’s maintaining this parcel and support sale to previous or adjacent landowners. They are not personally interested in purchase.

 

Jim Roode, Loveland Fishing Club and Friends of Big Thompson: The Loveland Fishing Club supports staff recommendations. Parking for four cars is needed, no more. Grazing is one of the most detrimental things for a fishery. He strongly recommends taking down the fencing so grazing is not a big part of this. 

 

No other public comment.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Rob Harris made and Frank Gillespie seconded, a motion that the Board support Recommendations #1 and #2.  Following discussion below, motion passed.

Board discussion:
Linda Knowlton:  There are many things up in the air about this property with many variables that make it more or less attractive. If adopted as written, it leaves a lot of room for things that we don’t know what they would be.  
Russell Fruits:  Are there any questions that any one would sell this? Would it be maintained in the status quo? or not maintained? 
Frank Gillespie: The motion is to retain it. We take criticism to heart with quite a few issues. If we are going to retain it, we need to meet the needs of as many people as possible.  
Frank Cada:  The county owns a lot of land.  This is another piece of property the county will have to rmaintain to meet the needs of the public. Should the board get into these issues, or rely on the county to deal with these issues? 
Barry Lewis:  Is it appropriate to incorporate some level of care? 
Glen Doughty: Would like to send this back without voting. There are too many variables, and public input.  He would like a firmer recommendation. Are we incurring significant costs? What do we really want to do with this parcel?  
Linda:  If we vote for the motion as stated, we’d be leaving it up to staff to resolve these issues.  
Russell: Staff will come back with a plan for the Board that deals with these issues.  
Glen:  Would like a more developed recommendation.  
Barry:  Are these two separate things?  
Linda:  This is not a further action item for the Board. 
Dan Rieves:  If the decision is to retain, staff can provide more information for the Board. Department can implement management as they open the front door, similar to Hayden and other parcels, i.e., a clean up, parking lot design, funds, management of tree issues, etc., --- a phased opening. Staff would be hesitant to put a lot of work into a plan if parcel won’t be retained. He can provide a couple of models.  Those do not change the core values of the property.  
Linda:  It is not under the Board’s purview to determine how a property is managed: it is to make a recommendation to sell.  
Gary Buffington:  Our management style is to address all the issues that have been raised, and to work with the neighbors.  
Dan:  The goal is to liquidate what we aren’t managing and manage well what we retain. 
Rob Harris:  What is the time frame for a plan? 
Dan:  We’ll need to get engineers up there regarding the parking lot, and address clean up, address issues, fencing, grazing. This is not a hug priority in the next couple of months. 
Gary:  Six months. Department staff will talk with the Chenowiths.  
Dan:  Has noted to provide a management plan that addresses all these items.  




Board discussion:

 

Parks Master Plan changes:  Horsetooth South Bay Campground – Dan Rieves, Visitor Services Manager

 

Recommendation :

Substitution of full-hook-up campsites in place of camper cabins at the south end of the South Bay Campground. 

 

Board and staff comment:

Dan presented projected construction costs and revenue (attached). One half of construction cost would be covered by Title 28, Bureau of Reclamation, funds with a plan to use those as grant match. It is possible very few funds from the Department’s fund balance would be required. Occupancy rate for full-service sites is projected at 45%.  In response to public input, the plan was scaled back to include only nine full hookup sites, the expanded 15-site plan not being palatable to stakeholders.

 

Public comment:

Dennis Acott, neighbor:  His interest is because he has property across the road. Over 100 citizens signed the petition to express that this is not an appropriate use of the area. It is a little too much too close to a residential area. Issues include visibility, noise, and disturbance of a nice hillside that provides a natural buffer between the neighborhood and the campground. These would be less desirable campsites, close to the road and away from the water. This project does not match the mission statement at the top of the agenda. They would like to see the area left as is.

 

Brent Acott, neighbor:  He, his sons, and Jeff VanHorn circulated the petition in Kinsley and Horsetooth Heights subdivisions. All but two people in the Kinsley subdivision signed the petition, and 70% of Horsetooth Heights. The entire community on south side of Horsetooth is against the project. He likes having the buffer. RVs in these campsites will be hard-sided, tall, and obstructing the lake views from 38E and the people in the subdivision. Noise levels will increase. He asked how the 45% occupancy rate was determined.  Dan advised he used both campground reservation data and campground management experience to project occupancy: based in part on technical data and part on experience. These are conservative numbers. Regardless of location, full service campsites are in high demand. The other full hookup sites aren’t in an ideal location and still have higher occupancy rates than the general campsites because there are so few.  “Full service” is the key component, and there will be larger rigs in them.   

 

Mary O’Dell, neighbor: She does not want this to happen. They have enough problems already with noise and barking dogs.  Her home over looks the water and she does not want to look over this. She has had problems in the last year with things being stolen off her porch and thinks it was done by people from the campgrounds.  She does not want to look off her deck and see other things. She and her husband, along with the rest of her neighbors, are not in favor of this project.

 

Jeff VanHorn, neighbor: He lives closest to this area and can see the entire length of the reservoir. This ruins the whole idea of the place they bought. Motorhomes aren’t camping. To increase revenue, raise camping fees for people who are actually camping rather than put in full-service sites.

 

Dennis Acott:  Asked if the revenue figure on Dan’s spreadsheet ($57,000) is gross or net.  Are there expenses against those numbers? Dan answered that it is gross revenue. While he doesn’t have the operating expenses here, they are of minimal impact. Electric and full hookup campsites are profitable. The biggest cost will be the initial capital outlay.

 

Text Box: Frank Cada made and Glen Doughty seconded, a motion that the Board support the staff recommendation to change the Parks Master Plan to substitute 9 full-hook-up campsites in place of camper cabins at the south end of the South Bay Campground.  Following discussion below, motion passed with one dissenting, Frank Gillespie.

Board discussion:
Frank Gillespie: Concerned about the potential eyesore, but there is a natural buffer that will still be maintained for most of the sites. About 100 people have questioned the wisdom of this project. Before we can recommend, the public needs to be sold on it. The visual impact will not be that much, and there is already a lot of noise from 38E; however, with 100 people expressing concern, he is not ready to go forward with a recommendation. The County needs to do a better job talking to the public.  
Dan:  Public meeting had very low attendance with only 5-6 people although 200 postcards were sent out.  
Frank Cada:  Was the public notified about this Board meeting? 
Dan:  He gave instructions about the process to everyone he talked with at the meeting. He did not send another letter notifying of tonight’s agenda.  
Frank:  Wonders why there aren’t more of the petition-signers here tonight if they do not want this to happen. What about all the potential campers who aren’t here and who want to use these campsites?  How do we serve most of the public?  
Russell Fruits: A significant number of petition addresses are not near this location:  they are Longmont, Loveland, Denver.
Glen Doughty: We’re talking about adding nine campsites, just a little bit extra on what already exists. Only one site that can be seen. The County should bend over backwards to increase buffering for this site.  
Russell:  The highest motor home is 11 ½ feet. After grading, only 4 foot would be visible over the buffer.  Residents shouldn’t see the motorhomes in most these sites.  
Rob Harris: Eight of the nine sites are fairly hidden. Could the one site be deleted? It would also be the noisiest site being next to the road. That would mitigate some issues. 
Ron Kainer:  If the lower one were not put in, it would reduce the visual impacts. The rest could be screened off with mature ponderosas.
Frank: The rest are behind a natural buffer as the cut is nine feet. He doesn’t know about the complaints of noise and thievery. Is that a problem, campers coming out into the community?  
Barry Lewis:  We are serving probably 300,000 people with this recreation opportunity.  
Linda Knowlton:  Concerned about the residences of the petition signers. She questions their interest in the South Bay area.  
Brent Acott: Advised that 75% live there.  
Forrest Orswell: After seeing the site himself, visual impact will be minimal and we’ll serve many people.  
Linda:  Recommends not deleting the one campsite but screening it more effectively.  
Russell:  Because of the construction, some trees would have to be removed. It might be possible to move those trees to be a buffer.  
Brent Acott: What is the next step for petitioners?  
Gary Buffington:  It goes next to County Commissioners, fairly soon.
Rob:  We have to wait for matching Reclamation funding.  
Dan:  And, will need to talk with grant folks. That pushes everything back 6 months. We don’t commit to anything without full approval. We were originally tracking for a fall/winter or winter/spring (2012) construction, but if we don’t hit the grant cycle, it will be pushed back.  Reclamation has already approved the cabins and we’ve done due diligence for the changes.  They won’t weigh in outside the management process.  
Barry:  How long can campers stay at one time?  [14 days in a 30-day period.]  (Note: regulations state 14 days in an 30-day period between April 1 and October 31.)
STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:

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

 

Blue Mountain District – Chris Fleming

·   Carter Lake is still only 5 feet down from full.  July 26 fatality was due to a medical condition.

·   Trainings: Chris and another ranger were trained as arrest-control-tactics instructors.

·   Staff have implemented a ranger’s new idea to use a Kendrick Extrication Device for water extractions which reduces rescue time from 20 minutes to about two minutes. It has been shown to other agencies.

·   Estes Campgrounds:  Dan and Chris met successfully with the Arapahoe Homeowners’ Assocation (neighbor to Mary’s Lake) who were very unhappy with the way Mary’s Lake property was run by previous managers. The furnace and filtration system at the Mary’s Lake pool have failed and will need parts replaced. It’s still very popular, though.  East Portal campground has bear issues. All campgrounds are very busy and we’re turning people away every weekend.

·   Hermit Park:  Hermit’s Hollow campground renovations are scheduled to begin in September.

 

Horsetooth District -  Mark Caughlan

·   Boating season started out slow until water and air temps heated up. Since then, the reservoir has been continually busy, close to capacity both Saturdays and Sundays. During the week, campgrounds are half full. It will probably slow down with school starting toward August end. 

·   HT swim beach renovation: the pavilion, swim beach, showers, and changing rooms are busy all the time and being used to capacity. 

·   HT east side: Sunrise pavilion is rented almost every weekend.  It is a very popular area. 

·   GO CO grant cycle is due on 8/26.  The campsite grant is 90% ready to go. Gary will try to go to the commissioners next week, and will meet with Dennis Acott at his home next week. 

·   One cliff-diving incident -- she has recovered. Two rattlesnake bites - one in campground, one HTMOS.  The Front Range has 2nd highest concentration of  rattlesnakes in the country, next to Texas. Rattlesnakes are fat and happy this year, and grasses are high. There are a lot of snakes.

 

Other – Dan Rieves

·   Letter to the editor about Carter Lake: Since the customer did not contact any staff, we were unable to fix the problems and there was no way to investigate the allegations. It was unfortunate for that visitor; but we don’t hear these complaints very often.

Board and staff comment :
Russell Fruits:  What is ranger rotation?
Chris:  7 a.m. to 2 a.m. on a Saturday night at Carter, four rangers on duty until 2 a.m. South Shore restrooms are cleaned twice daily.

Dan:  if a camper lets staff know of a problem, it is part of everyone’s job to clean up. 

Gary:  What are a camper’s options?
Dan:  Contact a camphost, flag down a ranger, contact ANS or other staff (entrance stations), call department phone numbers. Another option could be to freely give out the non-emergency number of the Sheriff’s Office who can contact the on-duty rangers.  Dan didn’t have the option to make it right. 
Linda: A concern was the partying.
Glen:  Is it clear to a camper what to do after 2 a.m.? 
Chris:  The non-emergency number is posted on the kiosk.
Ron:  Can campers check in at any time?
Dan:  Yes. 

Chris:  Ninety-nine percent of campers are here by 8 or 9 p.m. Rangers will help people set up if they are coming in too late. 
Dan:  Rangers enforce quiet hours upon complaint, or if the noise is heard for far distances.

·   Horsetooth had statistic anomalies with water testing due to the high water.  It is clean and safe.

·   Dan attended a two-day, “functional operations” for dam failures course with Bureau of Reclamation and 25-30 agencies.

·   We are hiring for two positions:  Ranger for Open Spaces; Campground Reservations and Visitor Services Specialist. 

·   Dan is researching “iron rangers” for automated paying of self-service permits in the field. These machines accept credit cards. They are expensive, but the current system is labor intensive and expensive in staffing. One iron ranger: $12,000 initial purchase & $2,000 subscription fee. A pilot project will be conducted at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. 

 

DIRECTOR’S REPORT – Gary Buffington

 

·   Big Thompson Canyon properties: Commissioners approved the Bartell parcel sale, the first sale in the project to a previous owner. Twenty six out of 60 parcels have been sold to date.  

 

The meeting was adjourned at 7:52 p.m.

 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Sue Burke

 

 

Approved:

 

 

 


Russell Fruits, Chair

Next regular meeting: September 13, 2011, in the Boyd Lake Room at the Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St., Fort Collins, Colorado.

Public can view agenda and minutes at www.larimer.org/parks

 


 

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.