Public wants parks left alone |

Public wants parks left alone

Residents ask city to keep Rita Valentine Park an open space

Zach Fridell

Steamboat Springs resident Laura Sehnert walks dogs Eider, front, and Rico on Wednesday at Rita Valentine Park.

— When asked by city staff Wednesday how to manage Rita Valentine Park, a group of residents gave a very clear response: Leave it alone.

The group of more than 25 residents attended a meeting with Steamboat Springs’ Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department to give input about how the park should be developed. Almost all of the attendees live within eyesight of the park.

The participants were divided into six groups and given maps of the park, located between Anglers Drive, Hilltop Parkway and U.S. Highway 40. They were then asked to add any features they would like to see in the park and explain how they would like the city to handle the 37 acres of land.

All of the groups left the park largely untouched. Several parking lots were suggested to give additional access to the park, but only one group suggested a structure – a skate park.

“The space ought to be maintained pretty much as it is now,” said George Hresko, presenter for the first group.

The rest of the groups echoed his sentiment, each showing large sections of the park left untouched. The only major difference was whether dogs should be kept on leashes in the area.

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One group of interested homeowners brought their own map of the area with a letter they presented to Chris Wilson, director of the city department.

Representing five homeowners’ associations near the park, the Rita Valentine Park Coalition recommended the park remain open space. The group urged Wilson to create a conservation easement on the land, and homeowners offered to pay for its upkeep.

Led by Bob Enever, Paul Stettner, Doug Scott, Pat Sobeck and Hresko, the group also urged the department to add more public access to the land.

“If the whole city can use it, we stand a better chance that the city will buy into it as a whole” and keep it as open space, Enever said.

Rob Layton of Design Concepts and John Barnholt of GreenPlay, LLC, led the discussion and will use the results to create a conceptual design for the department.

“This is the first in a series of meetings; this isn’t the end product,” Wilson said. After the meeting, he added that there were no surprises. “But we’re very thankful they took the time to share their perspectives.”

Layton said his design team uses focus groups to find “the light-bulb idea,” as well as defining trends that run through the projects.

“What this really tells me is how much development people, as a group, want to see,” he said.

Layton and Stettner will use the information from this group, as well as survey data collected earlier this year to design a plan for the park. That will be presented to the parks board either later this year or early in 2009.

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

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On the ‘Net

To see photos of the public-created designs, visit http://steamboats…. The photos will be added to the bottom of the page by Friday.