Working for better play |

Working for better play

Rec center

Citizens for a Community Recreation Center Chairwoman JoEllen Heydon plays with her 3-year-old son Ian, left, and 5-year-old daughter Madeline on Tuesday afternoon at her Steamboat home, before heading to a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting that included discussion of local recreation services. Heydon said her children are the main reason she decided to become an advocate for expanding recreation services in Steamboat.
Matt Stensland

— Recreation consultants hired by the city may have a bigger job than they applied for.

Staff with Greenplay, LLC, of Broomfield and Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver will come to Steamboat Springs on Thursday to meet with city officials, city staff, local media and members of a community group advocating for expansion of recreation services. The meetings will begin a process of at least three months in which the groups will examine indoor recreation facilities and needs in Steamboat. Greenplay and Barker ultimately will prepare a report for the Steamboat Springs City Council, recommending how to best meet needs – such as a youth and teen center, indoor pool and running track – that many citizens have requested for years.

“I think that, once and for all, these issues need to be addressed,” Michelle Caragol told the City Council on Tuesday night. “This has been going on for 12 or 13 years. We are growing, but our facilities are not.”

Caragol spoke during a work session held by the City Council to discuss recreation issues. Invited to the work session were members of Citizens for a Community Recreation Center, a group of Steamboat residents – including Caragol – that attempted to place an $18 million recreation center on the 2006 ballot. The council denied the attempt in August and asked the group to conduct more planning.

The group subsequently asked the council for funding. In October, the council set aside $250,000 in the 2007 city budget to hire consultants, conduct further studies and potentially design and plan expanded recreation services. Greenplay and Barker will be paid out of that fund, which City Council President Susan Dellinger said is administered jointly with the city’s Department of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services. Steamboat resident JoEllen Heydon, chairwoman of the citizens group, said members of the group will participate in upcoming meetings with Greenplay and Barker.

Bigger picture

Tuesday night’s discussion expanded the scope of work for the consultants, who now will be asked to consider recreation possibilities that could arise if the U.S. Post Office at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue is moved to another location. The consultants also will be asked to explore collaborations with the Steamboat Springs School District.

Ultimately, the consultants also will prioritize which amenities Steamboat residents want more than others.

“It really comes down to what amenities we’re talking about,” Dellinger said. “Is a swimming pool the No. 1 item?”

Leslie Curley, a member of the citizens group, said although Tuesday’s discussion rehashed several issues that have been raised numerous times, the consultant-based process finally could bring results to Steamboat.

“We’re not starting at square one today, which is kind of what this feels like,” she said.

Dellinger agreed.

“I think after these kind of discussions, we’ll be better set up to move forward,” Dellinger said. “We’re having conversations now that maybe we should have had before.”

Tuesday’s meeting also featured input from school district Superintendent Donna Howell, who said the district “is committed to a partnership” with the city and would be receptive to construction of a city-funded gymnasium on the Strawberry Park campus, which includes Steamboat Springs Middle School and Strawberry Park Elementary School.

Heydon said she appreciated the collaborative talk.

“I think the format tonight was wonderful – we’re really grateful for that,” Heydon said. “Hopefully the consultants will provide us with a better picture of how to provide what the community wants.”

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