Mark Munger: Guest opinion | AspenTimes.com

Mark Munger: Guest opinion

Mark MungerSpecial to The Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

For many years, residents of the midvalley area have been dreaming about a place where their children, friends and neighbors could gather for fun, exercise and community activities. Their vision was to create a nearby recreation center that no longer meant driving long distances to either end of the Roaring Fork Valley. That dream birthed the plans for the Mid Valley Recreation Center, whose fate is in the hands of the Eagle County commissioners tonight (Tuesday). This is such an important issue that the commissioners are traveling from Eagle to our valley – the meeting will be in the Eagle County building in El Jebel at 6 p.m.The Friends of the Recreation Center, who had this dream in 2007, wanted to know what their fellow citizens thought about their idea. So they convinced the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation board to conduct two community surveys and host 10 public meetings with hundreds of local residents. The surveys and meetings revealed that an overwhelming majority favored publicly-funded, indoor recreation. Cardio/weight training, fitness/aerobics/dance space and a swimming area with lap and recreation pools received the strongest support and are part of the proposed first phase.The ideas garnered support from the Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District board of directors, which began pursuing the conceptual design and land-use approvals needed to put the question of a recreation center to the voters. The amendment to the Crown Mountain Park Master Plan, proposed by its board, will be reviewed tonight by the commissioners. Without approval of this revised master plan, a Mid Valley Recreation Center is not possible and cannot be built. The commissioners will decide whether to give mid valley residents the eventual right to vote on their own recreation facilities.If Eagle County commissioners approve the PUD amendment/revised master plan, the Crown Mountain board will determine when to ask the voters for their approval of the funding for the recreation center. That will not be this November. The economic realities of the sluggish economy have come into play. The Crown Mountain board has decided not to put the recreation center question on the November ballot due to their sensitivity over the economy and concerns expressed by the public about the timing of additional taxes. While the latest survey results from this month revealed majority support for a recreation center, there were indications that this isn’t the right time for a public vote. The board wants to focus on the critical land-use process at hand, as well as taking the time to address the public’s concerns and questions. In addition, the board does not want to undermine the efficacy of other important November ballot questions. The Crown Mountain board is asking for you to attend tonight’s public hearing to let Eagle County commissioners know that you want the opportunity to eventually vote on a recreation center when the timing is right, whether in one year or five years.The research and planning to get to this point has been extensive, and will not be in vain. Ten public meetings have been held. Three surveys were conducted. Twenty-four midvalley locations were considered before choosing the proposed site in Crown Mountain Park. This location was selected to minimize the impact to neighbors, preserve the view planes from the El Jebel/Highway 82 intersection, be near mass transit and protect the park’s playing fields and green space. A huge advantage to the proposed location is that the land is already leased to the district by Eagle County for $1/year, and thus requires no taxpayer dollars for purchase. Placing the center in the existing park would provide for management efficiencies and convenience to the public available at no other location. The ultimate dream of the Friends is based on the model of a highly successful recreation district – WECMRD (Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District) – and its recreation center in Gypsum. Just as WECMRD developed over several years, so would the Crown Mountain District and the Mid Valley Recreation Center. The Friends imagined subsequent phases could include an eight-lane competitive lap pool, gymnastics/zero gravity center, indoor tennis, ice skating, and hockey. Additional phases would require separate funding through private donors and/or a public vote. All of these facilities are included in the land use application now before Eagle County Commissioners. Because the needs of the 7,000 midvalley residents are varied, the Crown Mountain board of directors has proposed the recreation center to serve multiple purposes. For example, they are 100 percent committed to the idea of a gymnastics/zero gravity facility to serve the hundreds of young people involved in the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. They also see the center as a cross-training, offseason and year-round training facility for local school teams and clubs, with activities such as hockey, swimming and tennis. As one resident recently told the Planning Commission, the programming is only limited by one’s imagination.The rec center is envisioned as a true community gathering place for the 7,000 middle Roaring Fork Valley residents, who range from children to seniors. The board continues to be committed to this vision. But first they have to win approval from Eagle County commissioners if that vision is ever to become reality. We hope you will attend tonight’s public hearing to voice your support and allow us to get one step closer to that vision. To learn more, visit http://www.midvalleyreccenter.com or call (970) 963-6030.

Mark Munger is chairman of the board for Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District.

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