City likes artificial turf idea | AspenTimes.com

City likes artificial turf idea

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Covering one of Aspen’s downtown parks with artificial turf in time to put the durable surface to use in 2005 emerged as a priority during a meeting Tuesday between the City Council and the Parks Department.

Still to come is a discussion about whether Wagner or Rio Grande Park is the best choice for the turf, but parks officials suggested Wagner may be the only logical choice, since they’re eyeing Rio Grande’s playing field to help handle storm water drainage. Standing water could damage the substructure of an artificial surface, said Jeff Woods, parks director.

The turf could handle the recreational use of four grass-covered parks, reducing the pressure on the city’s other parks and alleviating some of the need for additional playing fields, though Woods predicted the city will need additional fields in the coming years.

Advancements in artificial turf have made it a much better surface than the old Astroturf, Woods added, and dogs would probably still be allowed to play at the park.

“It looks, plays and feels very much like regular grass,” he said.

The turf’s other big plus, he said, is it will make it easier for the city to accommodate special events in its parks.

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“We would never say ‘no,'” Woods said. “You want to have a concert out there? Great. Go ahead and have it.”

Last year, Rio Grande Park was out of commission for much of the summer after hosting the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival. If Wagner was covered in artificial turf, it could handle more use while Rio Grande recovers. It’s also possible to place anchors below the turf to secure large tents on the synthetic grass, Woods said.

Installing the turf at Wagner Park would cost roughly $700,000. Sinking the field to create grassy seating around it would bring the cost to about $1 million, Woods said. The parks department has about $1 million in unused borrowing capacity authorized by voters in 1999, he added.

The city could move forward with a turf project in the fall with the goal of having it in place for 2005, Woods said.

Jim Horowitz, Jazz Aspen’s executive producer, urged the city to move ahead with the project.

“You couldn’t do one thing more important for special events than make it physically possible to do special events,” he said.

“I think this is an extremely exciting proposal,” Mayor Helen Klanderud agreed.

If the city decides to resurface Wagner Park, it must first decide once and for all whether or not it envisions underground parking beneath the park ” an idea that continues to resurface, said Councilwoman Rachel Richards, adding that she doesn’t support a garage there.

“This investment will rule that out for a long, long time,” she said. “It’s just something we all have to discuss.”

“If a parking garage becomes part of the equation, I’m afraid we’ll never get this done,” Klanderud said.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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