Officials partner for universal playground |

Officials partner for universal playground

Commissioners work with school district for $200,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant

Mike McCollum

If you go

What: Public meetings to gather input about potential new playgrounds for Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools

When and Where: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Soda Creek gym, and 9:30 a.m. Feb. 20 at Centennial Hall on 10th Street.

"This will be the public's opportunity to give feedback on the initial designs and help to give input into the final design of the playgrounds," local parent Julie Taulman said.

— Routt County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to team with the Steamboat Springs School District to apply for a $200,000 state grant to be used toward replacing the aging, wooden playground at Strawberry Park Elementary School.

The intergovernmental agreement means the commissioners will support the school district’s application for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for the project, which aims to build a “universal playground” at Strawberry Park. The community group that is spearheading the playground effort also is raising funds to build an additional playground at Soda Creek Elementary School, designed to accommodate children with mental and physical disabilities as well as able-bodied children.

The commissioners said they will not match the $200,000 grant, but could contribute a smaller portion to the fundraising effort at a later date.

“We can sign this intergovernmental agreement, but it does not obligate us to sign the grant applications until it is satisfactory to us,” Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush expressed concerns that the wording of the agreement does, in fact, indicate commissioners would be obligated to match the grant if it is approved.

“We need to have the school agree to make whatever changes that are appropriate because there are some things that I’m uncomfortable with,” Mitsch Bush said.

GOCO was created in 1992 as a result of a citizens’ initiative that directs a portion of state lottery proceeds to the GOCO Trust Fund to preserve and enhance parks, wildlife, trails, rivers and open space.

Julie Taulman, a Strawberry Park parent who has led the effort to build the playgrounds, said she hopes a three-pronged fundraising approach will raise as much as $800,000.

“With the GOCO grant, we can’t apply for money for Strawberry Park and Soda Creek even though all the money we raise goes into the same pot,” she said. “In essence, the grant will offset the cost that goes into Strawberry Park. These projects are going to be totally equitable.”

On Feb. 7, the Education Fund Board gifted up to $250,000 toward the project, which takes care of one of the three prongs. The Fund Board manages the city’s half-cent sales tax for education. Taulman aims to raise an additional $250,000 from both the community and grants.

A community fundraising arm has raised $33,000 from the Parent Information Committees at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park, while the school district contributed $50,000. The district’s grant writer, Ruth McBride, has worked in-kind applying for the GOCO grant, as well as a Colorado Waste Tire Recycling Grant that funds 80 percent of the cost for the playgrounds’ rubberized surfaces.

Taulman said she hopes to have the public fundraising done by June 1, but she won’t hear back from many of the grant organizations until later this summer.

“The timeline is tight, and we are all aware of that,” she said. “I’m not sure what the absolute drop-dead date is for getting funds together, but the goal is to build these playgrounds and have them in ground before school starts.”

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