Last May, the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District won a nail-biter special election that will add $700,000-plus-or-minus annually to its coffers. The park’s board and staff argued prior to the election that, without the increase, they would need to look at significant cuts to everything that required significant staff time — like events, snow plowing and maintenance — as well as anything with significant costs associated, like events, practice and game facilities.
In the runup to the election, which passed 1,178 to 1,106, then-board president Rich Pavcek, who was term-limited, said, “At this time, no final decisions have been made as to the specific items that would be reduced, but it is clear that the level of service currently being provided for the 20 organizations and 3,500 athletes that use the park for practices and games would be significantly affected.”
The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District was authorized by voters in November 2002 and formally established in 2003. Initially financed by the levy of a 1-mill property tax, its turf includes Basalt, El Jebel, Blue Lake, Old Snowmass, Emma and Sopris Village.
The 2002 vote also approved a $5.1 million bond issue to construct original facilities. That bond will be paid off in 2023.
“The original property tax now generates roughly $350,000 annually,” Rebecca Wagner, executive director of the Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District, said last spring. “This is actually less property tax than we took in 10 years ago. The original property tax in 2002 was intended to be used for basic maintenance of the park, which consisted of mowing the lawn and small maintenance repairs. Today, the park has become a place for 3,500 athletes, 20 organizations, 260,000 visits annually and 90,000 dog visits. I don’t think people can argue that it is the most-used open-space park in the valley.”
The staff and board breathed a sigh of relief after the votes were tallied last May. Then the work of establishing a long-term vision and budget began.
The planning rubber will soon hit the budgetary road as the increased mill levy assessment is set to kick in Jan. 1, with the Crown Mountain powers that be set to receive their first check in March.
As well, in January, Bonnie Scott will take over as president of the Crown Mountain Board of Directors. It will be on her watch that the new mill levy funds first arrive.
We interviewed both Scott and Wagner in advance of these two events.
RFWJ: How long have you been on the board?
Scott: I was elected to the board in May 2016.
RFWJ: How did you come to be impending chairperson?
Scott: We rotate positions every year. I was next in line.
RFWJ: What motivated you to be on the board?
Scott: For more than 10 years, my kids and I have frequently used the park for soccer, tennis, baseball/softball, dog park, Easter egg hunts, cross-country skiing, BMX, etc. I feel passionate about the park and wanted to be involved in maintaining and preserving the future of the park.
RFWJ: How long have you lived in the Valley?
Scott: Since 1995.
RFWJ: What do you do for a living?
Scott: I am a graphic designer and bookkeeper.
RFWJ: Describe what last spring’s election actually did — the specific tax increase, the amount of funds expected to be raised, etc.
Wagner: Our mill levy for O&M will go from 1 mill to 2.95 mills in 2019, a 1.95 mill increase, with no sunset.
Scott: The tax increase secured the CMP district’s financial future for the next 20-30 years. The CMP district will receive an approximate $704,000 per year additional revenue from the mill levy increase.
RFWJ: How will that funds actually be collected?
Scott: The monies will be collected through the 2019 tax bills. If taxpayers pay their property taxes in full, the district will receive the funds in May. If taxpayers pay their tax bill in two payments, the district will start receiving funds sometime in March 2019. We don’t know exactly how much that first check will be for.
RFWJ: Who will hold that and how/when will it be dispersed?
Scott: The CMP district holds the tax dollars in a savings/checking account and disperses the funds for capital projects throughout the year. The 2019 budget was approved at the CMP’s November 2018 board meeting.
RFWJ: Last spring’s election was won by a whisker. There was some fairly vehement anti-CMP, or at least anti-tax increase, opposition. Does that bother you at all?
Scott: There was a lot of misleading financial info out there that I feel was affecting people’s decisions to vote no. In the end, I believe the CMP staff, along with numerous volunteers, did an amazing job to educate the public on what the funds were going to be used for — such as repair, replacement of existing assets and reserves. A lot of people argued that they don’t use the park. Well, some people don’t use the library but they still want to have a library. Plus, at about the same time, it was announced that RFTA would be holding an election for a tax increase.
RFWJ: Did the closeness of the election send any sort of message?
Scott: Yes. That the park is a hub for athletics, community events and gathering space for facilities, seniors and local business events. It is a huge asset to our valley and people want to preserve that asset for generations to come.
RFWJ: You folks have recently been working on a vision/plan. What is the nature of that?
Wagner: During the last (board) meeting, we really discussed Crown’s mission, vision and values moving forward. We have always had a mission statement but no real vision or values for the Park District. It seems like Crown is finally getting out of this hole they were in for so long and can start making decisions about what they want to be and how they are going to get there.
The biggest question is what are the biggest needs of the community that fit within our values and vision. And what strategies do we need to take to fulfill those goals. We are doing a variety of research on need within the community. Once we have finished our research, we will see what the board thinks and move forward on trying to accomplish those goals. It will take some time for us to completely establish our strategic plan, but it is nice to see we are finally talking about how the district can be the leader in the community.
RFWJ: What are some specifics?
Wagner: The mission: Creating a community legacy through parks and recreation. The vision: Become the largest, most affordable, sport and wellness entity for the Roaring Fork Valley, providing year-round, multigenerational, inclusive, health and recreation opportunity. The values include four components:
- Perspective: Perspective in life might be the most important tool we have and it grows relative to our time spent in exercise. We believe that by offering our valley as many opportunities for health and wellness as possible, we can begin to evolve our generation and many to come.
- Play: Sports are the bloodline of Crown Mountain Park. Although different in their offerings, sports can be as beneficial as education.
- People: We are the organization that will do nearly anything to help people by supporting local business and bridging socioeconomic classes, cultures and communities.
- Pets: The world has a way of speeding forward with our needs sometimes left behind, but the love and loyalty of a dog is as reliable as anything we know. We are proud and happy to be one of the best dog parks in Colorado.
RFWJ: On what projects will you be spending the first batch of funds that comes your way?
Scott: In 2019, we plan to address basic maintenance of the park, such as much-needed irrigation repairs and grass management, resurfacing tennis and basketball courts, adding wood chips in the playground and replacing baseball field fencing. Capital projects may include bathroom updates, adding additional shade structures and pond landscaping improvements.
Wagner: It sounds a little boring, but it will be nice to start seeing small changes visually and taking care of this great asset. Here’s a partial list. The specific amounts are bids I have received and doesn’t mean I’m going with that company or brand. Our capital improvement plan for 2019 comes to about $334,000.
- Feb. 1: Pavilion bathroom remodel — $12,000.
- April 1: Baseball field improvements — $14,200.
- May 1: Park maintenance equipment purchased — $104,200.
- June 1: Asphalt BMX turns — $30,000.
- June 1: Install dog park shade structure — $28,000.
- June 10: Tennis & basketball court resurfacing — $50,000.
- July 1: Pond improvements — $40,000.