Tuesday, September 9, 2008 , 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.,
Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building, 200 West Oak Street, Ft. Collins, CO
Parks Advisory Board Members:
Linda Knowlton, Chair
Barry Lewis, Vice Chair
Randy Eubanks, County Commissioner
The September 9, 2008, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Chair Linda Knowlton at 5:35 p.m. The minutes of the August 12, 2008, meeting were approved.
PUBLIC COMMENT: Items not on the agenda – NONE
- Hermit Park Open Space Inaugural Year Celebration tentative date -September 13, 2008. Mark, Russell, David, Barry, Linda indicated they will attend.
- The 9th Annual COSA conference is in Estes Park this year September 15 - 17. Registration is posted on-line at www.coloradoopenspace.org. This year’s keynote speakers are: Author and Professor at the University of Idaho, Sam Ham and co-founder and President of Conservation Impact, Shelli Bischoff-Turner.
- The 4th Annual Northern Colorado Birding Fair at Fossil Creek Reservoir Regional Open Space is scheduled for Saturday, September 27.
- Windy Kelley is leaving her position to pursue her Masters degree at CSU. Sue Burke will replace Windy as the department representative on the Division of Public Works Leadership Team, The first project, Picture Public Works, is nearing completion. Upcoming projects include finalizing a promise for the division, updating department websites, and creating an annual report for each department. One of the goals for the team is to develop continuity between the division’s different departments’ communication pieces.
River Bluffs Open Space & Poudre River Trail – Update from Jeffrey Boring, Open Lands Resource Specialist
- When the Open Lands Advisory Board identified their highest priorities this year, the Poudre River Trail was number one. (From 392, Carpenter Road , to the CSU Environmental Learning Center.
- There is a lot of pressure from Windsor, Timnath and Greeley for this section to be built to connect to existing trails in Weld County and Larimer County.
- The project will achieve three primary goals:
§ Habitat protection for the riparian area along the Poudre River, which is rich in biodiversity.
§ Protection of irrigated agricultural land.
§ Completion of the regional trail connecting these communities.
- The trail extension will go under Highway 392, with a 10-ft. wide concrete path through River Bluffs OS.
- The trailhead will have vault toilet, parking area, information kiosk, etc.
- Fort Collins is working on a trail easement from the Environmental Learning Center, along the south side of the river to the Strauss Cabin, and then under I-25.
- Timnath has an agreement to extend the trail from I-25 to Harmony Road (with Wal-Mart, which is building there at I-25.)
- Larimer County is responsible for the section from Harmony Road to 392. We are currently working with willing landowners to acquire the necessary trail easements.
- The goal is for the underpass to be built in 2010 or 2011, and have the trailhead open at that time.
$494,000 GOCO grant is committed for the trail and trailhead construction
on River Bluffs; the total cost of the underpass under 392 may be $1.5
million. Additional grants will be pursued for construction of the underpass
and the remainder of the trail from River Bluffs to Harmony Road.
Draft Educational Plan for Natural Resources – Update from Rob Novak, Education Program Coordinator
- Rob distributed draft copies of the plan for comment, which will be received at the next meeting.
- He reviewed the planning process, which included a core team of stakeholders and a larger group.
- Four niches were identified which will be the focus of our educational efforts, as appropriate on each property: Natural Resources, Agriculture, Cultural Resources, and Safety/Recreation.
- Our Volunteer Ranger Assistant program has been combined with Fort Collins’ program, and is now operated jointly to expand volunteer opportunities, and maximize use of available resources. This has proven quite successful so far, and has been welcomed by volunteers.
- Campground programs are done at 4 areas during the season for a total of 64 programs. Each district will have a staff contact to work with Rob on these programs.
- Rangers will do more presenting programs, leading hikes, etc.
- A Jr. Ranger pilot program will be developed for implementation in 2010, and used to assess the interest in the program and its success.
- The School Field Trip program will be improved from “B” level to “A” level, with more options and resources invested. (TEN programs make up about 50% of the school programs.)
- Other programs to be targeted include Art in the Parks, “How to” programs (e.g., how to pitch a tent, build a campfire, do other outdoor activities, etc.)
- Rob reviewed the planned investment of staff time for 2009, by program, by level, and by area (parks and open spaces.)
- We should be on track for adoption of the plan will be an action item on the October agenda.
Election of officers
Linda expressed her thanks to the Board members for their
confidence in her.
2009 Fee Structure
- Gary Buffington presented one proposed change to park permit fees for 2009: A camping fee of $25 per site for the 12 new full hook-up campsites at South Bay campground, at Horsetooth Reservoir.
- Boyd Lake doesn’t have any full hook-up sites. Dan Rieves explained that staff preferred the clear-cut structure of $5 increments ($15 for non-electric, $20 for electric, and $25 for full-service.)
§ Did the department look at other park systems to compare fees? (Yes.)
- What is the profit margin on that fee? (Hard to quantify; but this is what people want, and has been one service area in which our campgrounds have not been competitive. This is a design that will be used throughout our park areas.)
- Are there additional maintenance costs to these sites? (There will be sewer and water hook-ups, which are more complex to maintain, but these campers usually have their own bathroom and cooking facilities, so don’t tend to use our facilities as much.)
- Does it include use of the showers? (No – the showers will be charged per minute. The shower fee is primarily intended to conserve water, not to generate significant additional funds.)
- What will the shower fee be? ($3 for 5 min.) Several Board members think that is too high.
- Did we check shower fees elsewhere? (Not yet.)
- It is important to control how long people stay in the shower, for line control.
- Will the showers have flow control heads? (Yes.)
- This is the first shower facility we’ve had, and was the #1 request of visitors surveyed for the Parks Master Plan.
Gary Buffington explained that these are the only
changes proposed for 2009. The Board’s recommendation will go the County Commissioners, who will hold a public hearing before approving or denying the fee.
2009 Budget Review – Debra Wykoff, Administrative Services Manager
- Deb presented the 2008 revised budget and 2009 proposed budget for Park Operations, as well as the Park Improvement Project budget for 2008-2010, showing expenses year-to-date for the Carter Lake Marina and other planned projects.
- She explained that the budget preparation and revision is a year-round process for the department. The County operates on a calendar-year fiscal year, and the next year’s budget is submitted around September 1 each year. Because the County budget system has numerous required components, and because the department’s budgets are quite complex, it is necessary to begin preparation for the following year’s budget as early as April of the current year, to meet the September 1 deadline.
- The Natural Resources Department is unusual among county departments because we are primarily funded by park-generated revenues, and other revenue sources. (Most County departments are entirely funded by the County General Fund – less than 10% of our budget is covered by General Fund.)
- This means that budget projections must be developed and submitted before the recreation season has begun and/or before the total revenues generated during the season are known. For this reason, revenue budgets are based on prior-year actual revenues, modified by anticipated factors that may affect revenue next year.
- The “Original Estimated Budget” is submitted in September as required; then in about February of the following year, the budget is revised to reflect actual revenues for the prior year. (The County’s books are not closed until early February, to allow a “13th month” in which to pay invoices for December expenses, etc.)
- What attributed to the increase in permit revenues this year to date versus last year – any trend? (Fee increases and hotter weather were among the factors.)
- Why are 2009 revenue projections so different from 2008? (These budget projections were developed several months ago, before revenues had surged. At that time, revenues YTD were actually down somewhat.)
- What impact does a recession have on park revenues? (Recreation is a discretionary expense, but it is also a less expensive way for people to recreate. Also people stay closer to home, which may increase visitation at our parks.)
- This should be designated as a “draft” budget to make it clear that the numbers will change dramatically next year, when 2008 actual revenues and expenses are known.
- What about the impact of weather and shoulder season visitation? (Hot weather boosts visitation. Other factors like fire bans and water levels, which are beyond our control, also have an impact on visitation.)
STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:
Park District updates and Parks Master Plan Implementation Progress report – Park District Managers, Mark Caughlan and Dan Rieves
§ Mark Caughlan and his wife have a new baby, born today, Grady Charles, who weighed in at 6 lb., 14 oz.! Word is that Mark is ecstatic – Congratulations, Dad!
§ Labor Day weekend was busy, with good crowds and mostly good weather.
§ The Park Districts will begin to scale back operations by closing some campgrounds to reduce staffing required during the off-season.
§ We hosted training by the Coast Guard Auxiliary at our reservoirs.
§ Campground Host Appreciation dinner was last week. We had a phenomenal group of people this year. (A big thank-you to our dedicated camp hosts!)
§ COSA conference offerings will include a ranger breakout session which Park Manager Travis Rollins and his staff will be leading.
§ Birding Fair at Fossil Creek Reservoir will take place on Sept. 27.
§ Dan is serving on the County Vehicle Cost Containment Committee, because this department has 74 vehicles plus heavy equipment. This committee is addressing several aspects of how the County manages its fleet.
§ Gary is serving on the Personnel Cost Containment Committee, addressing issues such as telecommuting, four-day work weeks, etc., which might reduce costs and increase employee satisfaction.
§ There are several issues being addressed on the new Carter Lake Marina Store, including insulation problems with the walk-in cooler, ambient light from exterior lighting, use of the restroom by the public, etc. The grand opening has been postponed until these issues can be resolved.
§ An insulated floor will be installed under the cooler. But this would not be an additional cost, since it was a design flaw.
DIRECTOR’S REPORT: Monthly update to the Board by Natural Resources Director, Gary Buffington
OLAB liaison from PAB
§ Gary asked whether there is a volunteer who would like to serve as the liaison from this Board to the Open Lands Advisory Board.
§ Russell Fruits may be interested, but does not want to be formally designated.
§ It was requested that Deb send the OLAB agenda out to the PAB members each month so they can attend if there is an item of interest.
§ Gary would like to combine the two boards sometime in the next few years, to reduce costs and staff time involved in supporting both boards. He solicited feedback on that idea.
§ Tom Miller volunteered to forego dinner to save costs, after seeing the annual budget for this board (around $5000.)
NOTE: The PAB support budget includes
monthly meals and refreshments for other Board activities like field trips,
etc.; but the primary cost involved is for the semi-annual Board Appreciation
events which are hosted by the department. The budget does not include
allocated personnel costs for staff support or time.
Department expansion exploration
§ Gary Buffington solicited Board input on whether to pursue future opportunities to expand recreational opportunities in the County.
§ Dan Rieves noted that future opportunities might include submitting a bid to provide services for other park agencies and facilities.
§ The Open Lands Advisory Board has specific criteria for assessing what opportunities should be a priority – should this Board consider creating a similar set of criteria?
§ Some anticipated opportunities may require staff to submit a bid by a short deadline or otherwise to move quickly. There may not be time to confer with this Board in advance. Gary is asking for the Board’s support and acquiescence in such circumstances.
§ Would this be for public access recreation and revenue generation – not open space? (Yes.)
§ Situations which have been discussed in the past have been good discussions of the pros and cons.
§ Is it perceived that recreational needs will expand to the point that there will be a demand and a market for other types of recreation?
§ What types of opportunities are we talking about? (Camping along rivers and at reservoirs, but not identical to what we are currently providing.)
§ Would this meet a projected future need? Before we get into it, can we be assured that the demand will really be there? (Economies of scale make it easier to add more of the same. Boomers will continue to recreate as they retire.)
§ Previous opportunities like Watson Lake or Lon Hagler have been discussed based on the specifics of each situation. It is difficult to respond without specifics.
§ As a parks group, it would be foolish not to look at such opportunities.
§ Staff should bring these opportunities as early as possible, before it’s too far along.
§ If there isn’t break-even revenue potential, some Board members are not interested in going further.
§ We have already committed all our funding to do what we’re doing now – but there isn’t a penny more available for expansion of facilities or services.
§ There is an opportunity for the Board to get involved in where we go from here, which may be exciting. But some Board members are not willing to give a carte blanche to look at anything, without stating what it is.
§ Staff should abide by the guidelines previously established.
§ Concern about whether a financial investment is required.
§ We have a Parks Master Plan which provides the model. We should look at that; not reinvent the wheel each time.
§ Our season is limited. To expand revenues, we need more campgrounds.
§ Every opportunity should be investigated.
Concession Management Policy – General Overview – Gary Buffington
- Gary distributed information about revenues generated from concessions; the current Inlet Bay Marina license was also e-mailed to members as an example of our concession licenses.
- The Department’s current Concession Policy was written in 1997 and needs to be updated. The Board will be asked to work on this over several months.
- Why are Inlet Bay Marina payments the same each quarter, but Carter Lake Marina’s payments are different each quarter? (Depends on how the license was written.)
- What’s the policy on going out to public bid? (Concessionaires have a large investment in the business; however, the Bureau of Reclamation prefers for concession licenses to be limited to 5 years.)
- Does the County have a policy on how the bidding process should be conducted, etc.? (Yes, we have a Concession Policy from 1997 – it is time to write a new policy.)
- Why does the Inlet Bay Marina pay a flat 5% from year-to-year; while the Carter Lake Marina license fee increases over time? (The Carter Lake Marina operates out of a County-owned building. The improvements at Inlet Bay Marina are privately owned. Both marinas own their own docks. The Bureau of Reclamation wants the County to own all fixed improvements on Federal land.)
- Don and Maggie Waldburger, Carter Lake Marina concessionaires: Don was here in 1997 and worked on the current policy. He hopes that as the new policy is developed, the concessionaires will be involved so that the policy protects both the concessionaires and the County. Don said the new building is very nice and they are enjoying it, despite a few problems, which Dan mentioned earlier.
- Duane S___: The Carter Lake Sail Club license is up at the end of 2009. They have substantial investment in the clubhouse, slips, etc., and in the maintenance of those facilities. Five years is not long enough; 10 years would be better.
- Austin Andrews: As a consumer, he wants to be kept in the loop and have the opportunity to comment.
- Carrie Pfister: The Marina building is beautiful! She worked on the last license for the Sail Club. Will there be a different policy for the sail clubs, or will they be included in the same policy? Also the restroom at North Pines is in terrible condition, virtually unusable. A new restroom was promised several years ago – when will that happen? (Dan will get in touch with her.)
- Dave Bach?: The flush restrooms were closed this year; Dan brought in portapotties, which was good. Flush toilets are important to the Sail Club. Park visitors need access to restrooms after hours when the marina is closed. The boat ranger at Carter was excellent this year (Eric.) Very reasonable, very safe. Part of the concessionaire’s job is to make it feel safe to put your boat in the water. If the license were up for grabs every 5 years, he wouldn’t have confidence in an inexperienced operator. He lives in Denver, but comes to Carter Lake for the quality of the water. (Applause)
- Timmons?: Long term resident of the Carter area. He requests that the concession management policy be posted on the County website. (As well as the drafts in the future.)
- Maggie Waldburger: Five years makes it very difficult to get loans, etc. Ten years is more reasonable.
- We should go forward with the policy review, bring it up to date, and make it the best possible for everyone’s benefit.
- There is an advantage to a longer term contract.
- It isn’t a given that the concession operator will change every 5 years; just that the terms of the license will be readdressed every 5 years.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.
FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
§ Education Plan – Recommendation for Adoption
§ Implementation update on Hermit Park Management Plan – Chris Fleming, Hermit Park Manager
To be scheduled:
§ Park Ranger program overview – Mark and Dan (October?)
Next regular meeting: October 14, 2008, Bison Visitor Center, 1800 SCR 31, Loveland, CO