Tuesday, November 10, 2009 , 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.,
Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building, 200 West Oak Street, Fort Collins, Colorado
Parks Advisory Board Members:
Dave Coulson, Chair
Mark De Gregorio
Barry Lewis, Vice Chair
Gary Buffington, Natural Resources Director
Dan Rieves, Visitor Services Program Manager
Debra Wykoff, Business Operations Manager
Mark Caughlan, Horsetooth District Manager
Chris Fleming, Blue Mountain District Manager
The, November 10, 2009, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Chair Dave Coulson, at 5:40 p.m. The minutes of the October 13, 2009 meeting were approved as amended with the addition of the following passage concerning proposed park permit fee increases for 2010:
Linda Knowlton made and Frank Cada seconded a motion that the staff emails the Board their recommendations on permit fee increases, and the Board would take action on those recommendations at the November meeting. This motion failed.
Linda requested that this fact be noted in the minutes, because that, in fact, is what had occurred, despite the fact that the motion was defeated. The staff recommendation was emailed to the Board in advance of this meeting, and the Board will be taking action at this meeting.
Adam Wilkinson: The annual permit for County parks is currently not customer driven. It’s good from January to January. If you buy it in June, it’s good for 6 months. It should be good for a full year no matter when you buy it. This is a big thing among my friends who are big trail users, which we really like. [Staff note: The annual permits are good from December 1 of the current year through December 31 of the following year, IF available from the printer early enough to offer for sale in December.] Also, the annual pass is required to be stuck to the car windshield. But if you ride your bike to the trail head, you are required to buy another pass. [Staff Note: The back of the annual permit serves as a walk-in/bike-in permit which may be carried in the wallet. It is not necessary to purchase another permit.] If your car breaks down, and you take another car, then you have to buy a day pass for the other car. A transferable pass would show your support for the parks and would be an improvement. These two simple upgrades would help make the pass truly customer driven.
John Vigh: Fort Collins Trailrunners– 300 users – some of your most avid users – we love the county park service. We support the trails program. Overall, you guys are doing a tremendous job. The annual pass is our concern – not the camping pass. We think more of our annual pass money should be used to maintain trails and less on building facilities. We don’t care about facilities – we just want access.
The last time the annual pass was raised was 2004. We polled our users. Twenty people responded. We asked: Would you support a fee increase if service would remain the same or be improved? Only 5 of 20 would support raising it. Of those 20, 50% use an annual pass; 15% use a day pass or ride with others; 20% enter through Lory State Park; 5% enter illegally; 10% (2 people) don’t use the parks because the fees are too high.
Boulder recently considered raising the fee for nonresidents on one of their trails. According to their analysis, they spent more on fee collection than they generated on the fee increase – so none of it went to improving services. He proposes eliminating the annual fee, at least for Larimer County residents – it’s a repressive tax. The benefits of getting outside well outweigh the costs to the county. The national parks pass is $75 and gets you in to all national parks across the country.
Amy Angert: I’m a trail runner. The parks are great; but the fees are a little out of line with the services provided. She recently traded in her pickup and bought a Prius to be ecologically responsible; she’s willing to pay, but our permit could be more accommodating, She is an assistant professor at CSU, and some of her students are discouraged from buying a permit because of the December cut-off. We don’t ask for much; we don’t want facilities – we just want access. [Staff Note: Larimer County also offers many miles of trails on its open lands which are free to the public – no permit is required. These include Blue Sky Trail, accessible from Soderberg, Horsetooth, or Coyote Ridge trailheads, Devils Backbone, Red Mountain, and Eagles Nest open space areas.]
BOARD MEMBER REPORTS / COMMENTS:
Frank Gillespie went on a hike last Tuesday with second graders, distinguishing between erosion and weathering, and had a great time.
Tom Miller: Requests that the staff revisit the annual permit question raised by the public during the public comment session.
The County has the S pass for any volunteer who provides 20 hours of service,
good Mon. through Thursday, during the season, and anytime during the
offseason. Perhaps these individuals should be referred to our Volunteer
Program, if they are looking for a cheaper alternative to an annual permit and
are willing to offer their services to the department, which they indicate that
Natural Resource Events for November. See
On 10/30, there was
a mandatory all-staff meeting where all department staff were brought up
to speed on Whole Measures and its potential use in a master plan update,
making our Annual Reports more relevant, etc. Everyone was very engaged
and many ideas on existing and new projects were discussed. Some of these
will be presented at a work session with the County Commissioners on 11/16,
along with proposed next steps for Whole Measures (integrating
"story" in to our Annual Reports, update of the Master Plan, etc.).
On 11/20, 5pm – 7 pm, Colorado photographer John Fielder will present his new book Ranches of Colorado at a
place TBD. The book features working ranches throughout Colorado that have
been protected with conservation tools. Event is sponsored by the Open Lands
program, City of Fort Collins Natural Areas and Legacy Land Trust and proceeds
will benefit LLT.
On December 8, the final meeting of the
Parks Advisory Board for 2009 is scheduled in the Boyd Lake Room again, if
required by the press of business. The 2010 meeting schedule will be
§ On December 9, the campground reservation system transition to Reserve America will go live.
§ On December 10, the Natural Resources citizen boards’ holiday party will be held from 6pm - 9pm in the Champion Executive Club at The Ranch. Email invitations will be sent out. Please RSVP to Zac (619-4534 or firstname.lastname@example.org) by 12/4.
STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:
Park District updates and Parks Master Plan Implementation Progress report –Dan Rieves, Visitor Services Manager
§ ANS inspections: We currently have two launching times – 8 am and noon, Saturday and Sunday only. We have only a little funding left to pay inspectors for this year. If various user groups are interested, we are willing to work with them to train them how to do inspections so that access hours can be expanded. We had to hire about 60 people to staff a total of 31 inspector positions. It was very challenging to put the program together on short notice. We don’t know what to expect for next year. There are inconsistencies in how the program is being managed, even within Larimer County, which need to be resolved before next year.
§ Volunteers planted new trees and shrubs.
§ Bids are out on South Bay swim beach remodel. We hope to start on the new east side swim beach next spring.
§ ADA retrofitting projects are almost completed.
§ The South Bay group use shelter will be removed and donated to Colorado Youth Outdoors for their archery range. A new group use shelter will be constructed at the swim beach.
§ Marijuana use is increasing at the reservoir.
§ At this time of year, we are updating brochures, signs, etc.
§ Elk Fest reached over 200 people in October in Estes Park.
§ The 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree will be at Hermit Park next year in September – over 1000 scouts. We are also being inundated with requests for scout volunteer projects.
§ The restrooms for Bobcat campground will be delivered next week.
§ A rehabilitated mountain lion was released at Hermit Park, which was a thrill for staff which got to assist.
Big Thompson Public Access – property status.
§ The fence is done which separates the private property from the public access.
§ Land Agent, Charlie Johnson, has been able to trade County lots with the two owners who owned to the middle of the river.
§ We now have public access for 1000 feet, from US 34 from the bridge at the north end to the fence on the east side.
§ The Loveland Fishing Club has met with CJ Cullins, Volunteer Coordinator, about adopting a section of the river in this area.
§ Dave Coulson noted that he has observed signs used by other agencies which are blue on the public side and beige on the private property side, which are easily recognizable.
§ Frank Cada asked which parcels will be addressed next. He suggested the middle parcel at Drake may be a logical choice.
§ Gary reported that Charlie has been working on the next group of parcels ever since the Hayden parcels were resolved. Gary noted that taking the time to do it right, allowing both landowners and the public to become fully engaged in the process, was very successful in the Hayden Subdivision; and is far more important than moving quickly on these properties.
2010 Campground Fee increases –Final recommendation- Gary Buffington
- Gary reviewed the final staff recommendation as follows:
- Full hook-up camping fees at Horsetooth Reservoir will increase from $25 to $30 per night.
- Electrical camping fees will increase from $20 to $25 per night.
- Boat-in camping fees will increase from $15 to $20 per night.
- Non-electrical camping fees will not increase.
- Hermit Park camping fees will not increase.
- Mark DeGregorio: Reviewed Federal park permit prices for comparison. He also suggested that magnetic strip cards that can be swiped may be one solution to eliminate some issues with multiple permit types and prices, etc.
- Tom Miller: Transferrable annual permits allow fraud, but should work for us because we check every permit.
- Linda Knowlton: Why has the staff decided to go with the Board’s higher proposed fees?
- Chad LaChance: He is of the opinion, as a member of the media, that it’s better to bite off a big chunk less often, because the negative press is the same either way.
- Tom: The day permit should be added to the camping fee for a fair comparison – so we’re $10 above market.
- Linda: Some Larimer County residents think non residents should pay more. That’s one reason I like these fees.
- Mark DeGregorio: My concern was about not pricing people out. By not increasing non-electrical sites, we’re doing that. When people come in driving expensive RVs, they can afford to pay the fees.
deGregorio: Providing people the opportunity to camp inexpensively is
important, whether they do or not.
- Dan Rieves: We’ve had continuing discussions on the technology issues and the challenges involved with that. For example, we do not have controlled access points. Rolling 12 month permits require maintaining 3 years of annual permit inventory. Also, we do not have the power, connectivity, and security required at all access points to facility use of magnetic swipe machines such as the national parks use.
- Entrance stations and rangers do check vehicles for valid permits; but checking every permit against every license plate to prevent fraud with transferrable permits would be far more labor intensive and time consuming and impractical. A change like this requires broader reconsideration of fee structures and revenue impacts.
- Dan: After vigorous debate, staff decided to go with the Board’s recommendation on most fees for two reasons. First, we wanted to avoid a split recommendation. We wanted to bring a cohesive proposal and a united front to the Commissioners. Also, the department has a serious need to increase revenues. So we decided to accept the Board’s recommendation of a bigger increase this year. So we’re recommending not increasing Hermit Park or second units, but going with the higher fees on the others.
- Gary: Our fees may be higher, but in Larimer County, we offer mountain campsites compared to State Park Boyd Lake which is an eastern plains flatland reservoir.
- Dan: State Parks also charges premium fees for its mountain parks. It’s an economic issue – we cannot meet the demand for our campsites. The reason nobody is here to complain about camping fees is that the majority of our campers are from outside Larimer County.
- Dan: The non-electric sites are less in demand, no matter what the type of visitor. It is not based on economic class. It is a user type – people that like to tent camp do so not because of the price.
- Mark Caughlan: Lower income people aren’t camping, period. To say that non-electrical campers have less money is not necessarily valid.
Carter Lake Sail Club – Final recommendation - Gary Buffington
- Dave Locke, representing the Carter Lake Sail Club, expressed their appreciation for the County’s working with them, and their happiness with the terms of the proposed license.
Gary reviewed the terms of the new license, which was
distributed to the Board in advance for review.
Board comments and staff responses are presented together for context:
- Tom Miller: How does that compare with the Horsetooth Sail and Saddle license?
- Gary: This is a 10 year license; the Sail & Saddle Club license is a 5 year term, but the Carter Lake Sail Club already had a 5 year term, and we have had great success with them. This is a year-by-year renewable term.
- Chad LaChance: Hasn’t the Bureau of Reclamation been pushing for 5 year max on licenses?
- Gary: Yes, but they do not approve these licenses.
- Linda Knowlton: In the master planning process, this was a huge issue. I thought we were going to limit all licenses to 5 years. The sense of the task force was that these should be limited. It bothers me to go back on that.
- Gary: Linda is absolutely right. But I don’t think we’re going to ask the Sail Club to leave.
- Tom Miller: How does this benefit the public to extend this license to 10 years?
- Gary: The Carter Lake Sail Club is also public. Borrowing for improvements is difficult on shorter term licenses for the club.
- Dave Locke: Slips cost $100,000. The club doesn’t have that much in the bank. To lend, the bank requires a ten year license. We are an open membership club; we have slips available; we take anyone who wants to go out for a sail. We used to have a 20 year license, so this still seems short to us.
- Frank Cada: Would it make it more sense to tie the fee to the Consumer Price Index instead of a fixed 3% fee?
- Dave Locke: This was considered. The CPI has been 2.8% on average for the past 20 years, so they don’t really care.
- Chad LaChance: The Sail & Saddle Club also wanted a 10 year license to do improvements. How do we justify this to them?
- Gary: When their 5-year term is over, we may well also consider a longer term license with them as well.
- Dan Rieves: The Carter Lake Sail Club graduated to the $15,000 license fee level, and proved they can do that and remain successful. Whether the Sail & Saddle Club can do the same remains to be seen. There are a finite number of slips that can be put on Carter Lake. The real impact of a 10 year license is that 50 slips are managed by the Carter Lake Sail Club. This will become more of an issue in the future when we are at capacity, and the value of those slips goes up.
- Dave Locke: Carter Lake Sail Club members also pay permit fees on their vehicles and boats – many are nonresidents, and pay several hundred dollars a year in permit fees in addition to the license fees.
- Barry Lewis: Is the Carter Lake Sail Club committed to replacing the slips? Is that is why we are giving a 10 year license?
- Dave Locke: They have to be replaced – it’s a safety issue.
- Tom Miller: We went through a lot of agony during the Master Plan process, and now we’re subverting the original work of the Master Plan Task Force - for what? The policy on Exclusive Uses which was adopted in the Master Plan also requires all improvements by exclusive uses to be owned or transition to ownership by the County. Who will own the slips at the end of the 10 year period? The club will, not Larimer County; and in 10 years, will those docks still be usable? Probably not. So that is not an incentive for the County to grant a longer license. Why are we dong this?
- Dave Coulson: For that matter, the marinas are also private businesses operating on public property, and the marinas operate under longer licenses.
- Linda Knowlton: The difference is that the Carter Lake Sail Club is a private club. A marina is a public facility. The 5-year rule applies to private uses on public property.
- Dave Locke: The club is non-profit. The money we take in goes to take care of club facilities.
- Linda Knowlton: The BOR really discourages private exclusive uses on public property; the Master Plan Task Force approved specific limitations on exclusive uses.
- Vickie Traxler: What is the significance of exclusive use?
- Frank Cada: Have we run this by the Bureau of Reclamation lately? Are there any unusual circumstances here?
- Gary: No, this has not been discussed with the Bureau, and there are no unusual circumstances.
- Dave Coulson: When you consider a marina, it’s public only in the sense that it is open to public use, but otherwise it’s a private business as much as any other and you cannot trespass – it’s very exclusive use. A concessionaire does have exclusive use as much as any private club.
- Dan: The only thing exclusionary about Carter Lake Sail Club use is that if you want to put a boat on the lake, you must have the size of boat that can be accommodated by their slips.
- Dave Locke: The Carter Lake Sail Club contracts with the Carter Lake Marina owner to maintain their slips.
- Dave Coulson: Is the Carter Lake Sail Club legally nonprofit? (Yes – it’s a 501c organization.)
- Linda Knowlton: The County has had a couple of functions at the Sail & Saddle Club facility. Do we do the same at the Carter Lake Sail Club? (We could if we asked.)
- Frank Gillespie: There hasn’t been any public outcry about this exclusive use.
- Chad LaChance: Has anyone from the public asked about using these facilities?
- Tom Miller: Is it likely that Sail & Saddle Club will be asking to extend their license – no competitors for the site?
- Frank Gillespie: He is not too concerned about the issue of a 5 or 10 year term; the increase per year seems reasonable.
- Vickie Traxler: Could the County reopen use of the Club property for bids if someone else expressed interest?
- Gary: This would be a difficult issue – it’s never been approached that way. The club has been here for 50 years.
- Dave Locke: This is actually a 1-year agreement that rolls over annually for 10 years, so the County has ample opportunities to reconsider. It’s a big deal to many club members because it’s been part of their lives for many years.
Estes Valley Campground Partnership-Final Contract approval and recommendation – Gary Buffington
Gary explained that this was changed to a discussion item, because the contract still needs some work. Dan Rieves stated that the core of the agreement would remain the same as the document which the Board is viewing at this meeting; only additional language pertaining to indemnifications, etc., would be added. He assured the Board that they had worked hard to be sure the terms of the agreement pertaining to capital improvements gave the County a strong role in determining what, when, and how improvements are made to protect the County’s investment in this agreement.
Board comments and staff responses are presented together for context:
- Vickie Traxler: She is having trouble with the concept of jumping jurisdictions to manage another facility for profit.
- Gary: Explained Estes Valley Recreation and Park District’s (EVRPD) motivation in approaching us to manage their campgrounds instead of a commercial vendor. In these challenging economic times, we need to be open to new opportunities to generate revenues.
- Vickie Traxler: What kind of profits are we expecting to see?
- Gary: We project gross revenues round the $600,000 mark. These are just projections. We think we can come away with net profits of around $100,000 by year 3 or 4.
- Deb Wykoff: Note that budget projections which included the $100,000, were done on the assumption that the profits would be available immediately in year 1, as previously projected. If this is not the case, then the financial picture is significantly different at the reservoirs as well.
- Frank Cada: Are we competing with other private entities who want to bid to provide the services?
- Gary: We left that up to EVRPD. Their Board chose not to put it out to bid. They decided not to use another concessionaire, regardless of the outcome.
- Linda Knowlton: Why would they bring us in and share the resources? Why not run it themselves?
- Dan Rieves: They want to implement their master plan. They don’t have a ranger program. They aren’t prepared to do either of those things. We are experienced at both. They want some of the profits put back into the properties. The concessionaires have not done that.
- Tom Miller: The role of government is to provide for people what they cannot do for themselves. The County needs the money; but we also have an advantage. We don’t pay taxes. We have an operations center already there. That can be interpreted as an unfair advantage politically.
- Dan: We had a similar concern with Hermit Park. Dillon Reservoir marina is another example of a government agency providing a service traditionally offered by the private sector. There is not a private concessionaire that is going to put dollars back into the properties the way we will because we are managing public funds for public benefit – not for private gain.
- Tom Miller: There’s more to a park than a campground. A park is a special place that ensures a quality experience. A company (HP) couldn’t afford to do that at Hermit Park. They dumped it. The County can do that. That is in the public interest. This is not comparable. The recreational opportunity isn’t there. It’s a trailer park. It’s not appropriate for the County to be operating a trailer park. There’s profit in this. Private enterprise should be doing this.
- Gary: It was all Federal dollars that went into the Poudre Canyon campgrounds. Then the private concessionaire came in to manage them. We’d be doing the same thing with these – making the improvements which the private concessionaires have failed to do.
- Dave Coulson: The same argument could apply to the 4 reservoirs we manage for Reclamation – that private enterprise should manage them for profit for the Bureau.
- Mark DeGregorio: He doesn’t have a problem with the County managing another public property. But the long and short term costs are his concern – both start-up and long term. The start-up costs have been stated as $75,000, plus $50,000 per year, as well as the 60% set aside for capital improvements. When he talked to the Bureau of Reclamation about improvements that need to be done, they did not yet know the total cost. But if you look at the management plan cost projections for capital improvements, it’s $10 million over 10 years. If improvements similar to our shower houses are required, it will be very expensive. He wonders whether this is their underlying motive in wanting to get out from under the requirements of their master plan improvements.
- Frank Cada: Is it possible that EVRPD has sources of funding in mind?
- Dan: Stan Gengler says their plan contains everything they could possibly want – not what they realistically expect to do.
- Mark DeGregorio: If it is the County’s intention to take over the license with the Bureau of Reclamation in several years, it would significantly change this.
- Gary: This is not on the table at this time.
- Mark DeGregorio: The County will not be managing the day use areas which are also part of Reclamation’s management agreement with EVRPD? (No, just the campgrounds.)
- Linda Knowlton: What is the current concessionaires’ status? If we do not go through with this, will the concessionaires continue next season?
- Gary: No – it’s us or nobody.
- Frank Gillespie: What was the email from Stan Gengler about paint and carpet, etc?
- Dan: We’ve been giving EVRPD a lot of advice about how to proceed in negotiating with the concessionaires.
Gary thanked the Board for all their comments and input on the many difficult issues addressed at this meeting.
Linda asked about annual
permits for 2010. Deb will have those at the December meeting if they have
been received by then. The December meeting will also be in this room.
Meeting adjourned at approximately 8:20 p.m.
Dave Coulson, Chair
FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:
- Marina concession @ Carter Lake
- Commercial Use of DNR Lands – Final approval
- Whole Measures – Continue discussion
Next regular meeting: December 8, 2009, Boyd Lake Room at the Larimer County Courthouse Office Building, 200 West Oak, Fort Collins, CO.