Tuesday, March 13, 2012 , 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.,
Bison Visitor Center , 1800 S. County Road 31, Loveland, CO 80537
Please call Deb at 619-4567 if you are unable to attend this meeting. Votes require a quorum. Thanks!
Steve Johnson, Commissioner
The March 13, 2012, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Chair Russ Fruits at 5:36 p.m. The minutes of the January 10, 2012, meeting were approved.
BOARD MEMBER REPORTS
– if any
5:40 PUBLIC COMMENT: Items not on the agenda
5:45 GENERAL INFORMATION: (Questions – 5 min.)
§ Natural Resource Events for this month: See website http://www.larimer.org/naturalresources.
- Friends of Colorado’s Outdoors (FOCO) and lottery funding: The Colorado constitution can only be amended in even years and there is much talk about redirecting lottery dollars to other needs, such as veterans’ benefits and education. The FOCO group is gathering information about community impacts from the lottery via a survey that’s been distributed. Without Lottery and GOCO funding, the Natural Resources Department would be unable to fund capital equipment replacement, parks capital improvements, and some operations for which there is no other funding source.
- Staff continues to work with our municipalities on the RFP for the Regional Study. The RFP will be posted soon, for about a month, At least Loveland, Ft. Collins and Berthoud will be using it to update master plans, and Timnath will be using it to fill in gaps in their recently completed plan. Estes Park will also use it to inform future plans.
- Staff continues to work with Fort Collins, Timnath, Windsor and Greeley on the GOCO River Corridors Initiative grant application. The grant is due March 16. A site visit with the GOCO board will be 3/31 and a presentation to the Board is on 4/9.
- 16 Natural Resource volunteer board members and guests attended the Eagles hockey game on 2/15. A good time was had by all!
Larimer County Thistle Guide: A report from the Weed District – Casey Cisneros, Weed Specialist
- Casey distributed copies of the new “Thistles of Colorado: An Identification Guide. The purpose of the guide is to reduce threats to native species due to nondiscriminatory pulling and urbanization. The guide has lots of photos, management options, identification of look-alikes, a dichotomous key, and a glossary with sketches. The dichotomous key was created by Jennifer Ackerfield, a top botanist at CSU. Mary Anne Bonnell created the illustrated glossary. The guide has received extensive interest from professionals as well as lay people.
- Noxious means invasive, non-natural, without native predators.
- There are 15 native thistles in Colorado. Number one threat is urbanization; number two is invasive species.
- Sales at $3 per copy by other agencies pays the postage and printing costs. Copies for the public are free.
- Casey also highlighted the LC Weed Management Guide, 4th ed., a comprehensive guide to killing bad weeds safely.
Board and staff comments:
Linda Knowlton: Asked Casey to talk about yellow star thistle.
Casey: In Larimer County, we have less than 2 acres, in the south corner of the County.
Frank Cada: Asked about knapweed. Have they worked with the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers?
Casey: Yes – they work together a lot. If Frank will provide a
number of guides needed by the group, Casey will provide.
Overview of the Education and Volunteer Programs for 2011 – Rob Novak, Outreach and Education Specialist, CJ Cullins, Volunteer Coordinator, and Heather Young, Education Program Assistant
- CJ Cullins, Volunteer Coordinator, presented a summary of volunteer statistics for 2011:
- 20 groups, 340 individuals, 42,700 total hours
- 5000 new photographs from volunteer photographers
- 176 hours of firewood collection
- Conservation Easement projects – a volunteer project on a conservation easement. 212 hours were donated by LDS volunteers.
- Training improvements:
- Volunteer Ranger Assistant program: Webpage created with documents online; 1-0n-1 hikes with volunteers; reduced formal trainings to once a year to fill the class.
- Park Ranger Assistant program: Volunteers on the boat docks or parking lots. Doing a full review in 2012. Currently soliciting feedback from the volunteers to develop a new job description.
- Campground Hosts: Estes Park area camp hosts will receive a separate training from the reservoirs.
CJ reviewed the many groups that volunteered and
mentored other volunteers; and she recognized several volunteers for
special contributions. She also praised staff for their enthusiasm about
- Heather Young, Education Assistant, reviewed the Education Program for 2011.
- School field trips: 16 field trips reached 989 students.
- Campground programs: 59 programs for 1506 members of the public; 5% increase in number of programs; 33% increase in attendance.
Special event programs reached 1182 members of
the public, with a 75% increase in the number programs and 91% increase
- CJ and Heather reviewed program initiatives for 2012:
- Sr. Tax workers are now volunteers (seniors can have part of their property taxes paid by working for limited hours.)
- Horsetooth Annual Clean Up will be held on April 21, as a CSUnity project.
- Conservation Easement projects – CJ hopes to expand these.
- New coordination with Weed District, may include a test project at the Shambala Center.
- More opportunities for the faith-based community.
- Nature Notes Club: An opportunity for creative journaling in the outdoors.
- Tiny Trekkers: Programs for toddlers up to age 6, a huge hit in 2011, meets Plug In to Nature goals by engaging a younger audience. Hope to take it into the campgrounds, as well.
- How-To Programs: Survival skills, camping clinics, were taught by Open Lands ranger staff last year.
Board and staff comments:
Rob Harris: Do we charge for the survival clinics? [Free to public, like all other programs.]
CJ: Staff loves the chance to interact at this level.
Frank Gillespie: What’s the age of Tiny Trekkers, and focus of the interpretation?
Heather: Focuses on a natural resource idea – read a book, do a craft, e.g., about prairie dogs, for preschool age children.
Frank Gillespie: The curriculum for 4th graders doesn’t work for 2d graders, he’s learned, so he’s glad to hear the curriculum is tailored to the audience.
CJ: Doing volunteer equestrian training in May with Poudre Wilderness Volunteers.
Plug in to Nature: Study Results – Rob Novak, Community Relations Specialist
- This is a pilot project which our department carried out on behalf of GOCO. Project roll-out was this week. The goal is to investigate the connection between families and the natural world. GOCO’s objective is to engage youth and families in all areas of their mission.
- There is no part of child’s development which is not enhanced by time outdoors in nature. Big Thompson Elementary students’ performance has soared after introduction of this kind of curriculum
- Connections to nature are a spectrum from the backyard to a natural playground to wilderness.
- Rob reviewed the process used which included:
- Literature review and inventory of nature based opportunities
- Community engagement through a county wide survey, community meetings and focus group interviews, which tried to reach groups that wouldn’t typically be reached, including the Latino community, working parents, and families of children with disabilities.
- Assessment and analysis
- Findings and recommendations.
- Parents recognize the value – they know their kids should be outside more. But kids’ time outdoors has been reduced significantly.
- 67,000 people participated in outdoor programs in 2011, provided by35 program providers. Very few providers are addressing the 0-5 age group.
- There are 944,500 acres of parks and open space allowing public access in Larimer County – nearly 60% of the county.
- 87% of respondents reported their children’s nature connection as very high; but 79% want even more time for their kids in nature. This was the key finding of the study.
- Factors which prevent residents from spending more time outdoors included primarily lack of time and location. Surprisingly, too much technology was not considered a major barrier by parents. But parents are reluctant to allow children to roam beyond the backyard, which may significantly limit a child’s access to interesting opportunities.
- Barriers are NOT: safety, culture, language, lack of interest (although Latinos would love to see signage in Spanish.)
- Barriers ARE: Disconnected parks and open space areas; lace of close proximity; awareness of what’s out there – parents don’t have time to look at 40 different websites to research what’s available.
- Parents want programs for the entire family, for youth with disabilities, winter offerings, outdoor skills development; convenience.
- Program providers need more capacity to be able to do these things.
- Residents are generally very satisfied with existing natural areas and facilities.
- Restrictions on use of open spaces can inhibit child’s connection to nature. We are trying to address this with a natural play area at River Bluffs Open Space.
- Low income areas are not suffering from disparity of access – that’s good. But areas with high concentrations of children do tend to have less access – just the opposite of what we want.
- People really like mountains, trail connectivity, forests, and water access.
- Enhance outdoor programs
- Integrate with school programs to enhance school grounds by building natural playscapes, etc.
- Integrate with early childhood programs.
- Improve accessibility – safe access in urban places; safe routes to nature; improve transportation options – e.g., shuttles from FC to HTMOS; reduce fees for families.
- Improve awareness – create a single website for information. Get Outdoors Colorado is already pushing that.
- Infill for Nature Experiences – transform existing properties to include nature play wild zones – rocks, boulders, logs, etc., for unrestricted play.
- Acquire additional lands for public access – especially where kids are.
- Regional study of economic impact and user interest as a precursor to a regional master plan.
- Accommodate future needs.
- Information available at www.larimer.org/plugintonature
- An executive summary is available.
Comments by Board and staff:
Russ Fruits: With 2 kids under age 5, he thinks 87% is high. He thinks parents don’t understand what a good nature connection is – there’s a difference between a manicured lawn and a trail. Thinks Tiny Trekkers is a great idea! He also loves the idea of a natural playscape.
Rob: We don’t have the capacity to serve the audience that’s out there, or to offer as many programs as we would like, but have many more volunteer naturalists this year eager to do it, so we can expand.
Frank Cada: Any follow-up with agencies to get the information out there? So this will be a big part of what you do this year?
Rob: He’s doing many programs to present the information; they are also working on a coordinated marketing campaign, and working closely with school districts to team up on it.
Mark DeGregorio: Compliments county staff working on it – Kerri and Rob did a great job balancing the needs of GOCO and the contractor – they did a masterful job of bringing everyone together and getting a consensus.
Dan Rieves: The true success of this movement will be when it becomes self-perpetuating, and every community has a great natural playscape, so kids have an alternative to the “soccer field” mindset, where the only activity that comes to mind when kids see a big open field of grass is soccer and other organized sports.
Rob: We do need a sea change here – the excitement we’re seeing from the agencies and program providers is encouraging to our hopes that the plans won’t just go on the shelf. We’ve got the info now – now we need to provide the services. Kids are driven by societal values to do structured activities like sports, music, etc.
Ron Kainer: Is the County involved with Colorado Youth Outdoors?
Rob: Yes – they’re already involved in a big way.
Mark DeGregorio: Offering up fee-free days is critical to expose local residents to what we have available.
Frank Gillespie: What he hears from this is that we want to put our priorities less on open space that looks like Red Mountain, and more that looks like the Environmental Learning Center.
Rob: People want areas closer to home, but also very high value natural resources – they want both. The big message is convenience, but they don’t want to sacrifice the natural resource values.
Russ Fruits: People want areas where you can go off trail, touch things, take your dog. People are tired of being told don’t go off trail, don’t touch anything, don’t take a dog, etc.
Frank Cada: Need to get this out to public officials as well. It shows the importance of open space.
Dan Rieves: If times get tough, we can always grow a lot of vegetables on all those irrigated soccer fields!
7:30 DISCUSSION ITEMS
Annual Permit Redesign – Dan Rieves
- “Kevin”, the automated pay station at HTMOS, is getting a lot of use - $700 in one day, versus $38 for the analog (paper permit) system.
- Field Manager will be fully implemented at the Estes campgrounds, including day permit sales.
- Will be spot testing Field Manager for high volume day permit sales at the reservoirs this summer.
- We have submitted a new proposed contract to Active Network for the campground reservation system which mirrors the contract of the State of Indiana, a major client of Active Network.
- The survey on annual permits ends in a few days. Survey results so far: 355 people took the survey so far. These were the results:
- Predominantly, survey takers buy an annual every year.
- The value of an annual permit is for multiple visits.
- Differential fees are favored by 66%.
- Keeping the money in the parks is important.
- Prefer to buy online or from staff – not from outside vendors.
- 57% prefer a wallet card – not as high as expected.
- 93% prefer transferable between vehicles, but 69% prefer not to pay more.
- 75% prefer year from date of purchase, but are not willing to pay more for it.
- 62% prefer a combined vehicle/boat permit.
- We are moving away from the idea of wallet cards, because we are a long way from being able to use the technology. We are looking at a combined vehicle/boat permit, but the revenue loss may make this prohibitive.
- CSU parking services uses a static cling permit which is transferable between vehicles. Santa Clara County, in California, uses a mylar transferable year-from-date-of-purchase sticker. We want an annual, transferable, mylar permit to shrink the inventory required.
- The next question is: If we’re offering the ideal permit, what do we charge for it? We may take a hit to revenue by eliminating all the multiple types of permits. We need to assess the benefit of the differential fee. Is there another benefit we could offer county residents which would not require a separate permit system?
Board and staff comments:
Russ Fruits: What about hangtags?
Dan: Not favored by respondents.
Mark DeGregorio: What are some of the reasons for/against the differential fees?
Dan: A lot of visitors from out of county. These are federal properties – but we are localizing the fees which is unfair to out-of-county visitors who “own” the reservoirs just as much as local residents. It is a hindrance to people who would buy an annual permit if the price is raised $20. If you want to make money, eliminate annual permits altogether. But politically, that would be a difficult to change that in an election year.
Linda Knowlton: It’s an incentive for people to vote for the sales tax renewal if there is a differential fee – if we eliminate it, it’s a disincentive to vote for the tax.
Rob Harris: Agrees. If you eliminate the differential, you must convince residents that they are not paying for the parks in other ways, like taxes.
Russ Fruits: The guy from out of county doesn’t vote up here.
Frank Cada: Could be losing revenue from residents that stop buying annual permits. People vote on what “feels right” – differential fees feel right.
Linda: Has some problems with the survey: It is not statistically valid, self-selecting; the sample size is inadequate. It makes her nervous to base decisions on the survey. The survey didn’t explain the implications of the answer to the question.
Dan: The survey was based on the questions we hear frequently. What he was trying to find out was whether the comments we get at random are reflective of general opinion.
Linda: Why aren’t we considering the State Parks solution – a permanent sticker with a punch-out for the date?
Dan: When we get into pricing, transferability may be the determining factor. Because State Parks offers a rolling year permit at no extra charge, we can’t base a fee increase on that.
Linda: Did state consider a transferable sticker?
Dan: State said they did not lose revenue when they went to the rolling year permit – it leveled off revenue throughout the year. State said they don’t go to automated pay stations because of the cost to implement state-wide. They are now analyzing the transferable option.
Mark DeGregorio: Just make a decision – don’t do something different every year.
Dan: Wants feedback on whether we’re on track.
Linda: Wants to see an analysis of the revenue impact of a transferable pass.
Dan: Annuals are 5% of total permits sold.
Russ Fruits: About $24,000 in revenue from 2d vehicle permit may be at risk.
Deb Wykoff: Some people buy a 2d vehicle permit because they want to bring two vehicles.
Rob Harris: Wants to see data on the number of permits sold by type.
Frank Cada: Do a best/worst case analysis on revenue projections. There are so many variables, it’s hard to get a handle on it.
Frank Gillespie: Need a list the top 5 or 6 decisions to be made: What’s a given, what’s iffy? What do we want to change to improve service to the public?
Dan: We will feel the need to raise the price to offset estimated revenue loss. We want to be responsive to the public, but without suffering negative revenue consequences. He will provide the numbers to board, and a list of priority decisions to be made. Transferability may be jettisoned if we feel we can’t raise fees.
STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:
Park District updates and Parks Master Plan Implementation Progress report – Dan Rieves, Visitor Services Manager
§ Chad LaChance is on the poster for the Fishing Expo – his casting contest is going viral.
§ Airstream trailer – 1976 retrofitted, to be placed in a full-hook-up campsite at S. Bay for the summer, and rented for around $100 per night. In the fall, it will move up to Estes. Throughout the year, it will be used for various marketing purposes and public relations.
§ Horsetooth is almost full; Carter is filling.
§ Flatiron Fishing is Fun project, to improve access to shore, will be done this spring.
§ Working on re-opening Cheyenne Day Use, on the south side of Flatiron, which was closed in 2001 after 9/11.
§ Adding monument signs at the Visitor Center/Administrative Offices, the north end of Carter, and on CR8E at the south end of Carter.
§ The remodeled shower house at Mary’s Lake should be finished on May 1.
- Replacement of the kiosk at Gate 2 at Carter which was damaged in the wind storm should be completed by the end of next week.
Mark DeGregorio: Will we lose campsites due to the monstrous power pole in S. Bay?
Dan: Not losing any campsites. The new power pole actually has a smaller footprint than the 3 wooden poles it replaced.
Meeting adjourned at 8:30.
Russell Fruits, Chair
Next regular meeting: April 10, 2012, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m., in the Boyd Lake Room at the Larimer County Courthouse Offices, 200 W. Oak St., Ft. Collins, CO.
Public can view agenda and minutes at www.larimer.org/parks