Steamboat Parks and Rec Commission continues to explore alternative funding sources

Scott Franz
Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services employee Jake Girty uses a blower to remove debris from Simillion Field. The city's Parks and Recreation Commission is continuing to learn more about alternative forms of funding like recreation taxing districts.
Courtesy Photo

— Minutes after they celebrate the 100th anniversary of Howelsen Hill Wednesday night, the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission will learn more about an alternative way of funding the city’s historic ski hill and its other recreational amenities.

The commission will meet at 6 p.m. at Citizens Hall to hear more about parks and recreation districts that typically levy a property tax to operate and fund capital improvements.

Ron Hopp, executive director of the Foothills Parks and Recreation District, and Scott Ledin, director of the Fraser Valley Recreation District, will be on hand to talk to the commission about how their respective districts were formed and how they operate.

Several of this city’s parks and recreation commissioners have suggested Steamboat’s recreation amenities aren’t adequately funded by the city’s general fund.

Late last year, the commission made exploring alternative funding sources to recommend to the Steamboat Springs City Council a top goal for 2015.

Some city council members have expressed some concern over its volunteer commission’s continued exploration of the parks and recreation taxing districts.

In July, council president Bart Kounovsky said he had no interest in pursuing any special taxing districts unless there was a grassroots effort to get one started.

“This is a community thing,” Kounovsky said. “Until that community piece gets to me (and citizens ask for it), I’m not interested at looking at any of these taxing districts. They’re the ones who are going to have to approve it at the end of the day, not us.”

In response to the concern from council, the commission has repeatedly pointed out its vision statement is to “actively pursue through collaboration with City Council the development and maintenance of world class parks, open space, facilities and recreational programming.”

As part of that pursuit, commissioners have spent the last several months learning more about parks and recreation districts.

Last year, the commission heard from Steve Russell, head of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, and Dee Wisor, a Denver-based attorney who specializes in creating special districts.

Some commissioners have said a recreation district sounds “too good to be true” and could be a “no-brainer” to start up here.

On Wednesday night, the commission could have a bigger audience than it has had at its past presentations focused on the districts.

In addition to city staff and the City Council, Routt County officials, town officials in Hayden and Oak Creek, Steamboat School District Superintendent Brad Meeks, Old Town Hot Springs Executive Director Pat Carney and Steamboat Chamber Resort Association CEO Jim Clark have been invited to the public work session.

The commission decided at a meeting last year it should reach out to the county and other nearby towns to gauge how interested they would be in forming a regional parks and recreation district.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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