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Midvalley voters will consider new rec facility

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The Crown Mountain Parks and Recreation District board has decided to place an item on the November ballot for a two-part property tax increase to help pay for construction and operations of a 63,000-square-foot recreation facility.

The building would be known as the Mid Valley Recreation Center. The proposal calls for putting it on available Crown Mountain Park property, south of the main El Jebel intersection with Highway 82, in an area that would not upset existing park amenities. It would include three indoor swimming areas — a lap pool, a recreation pool and a “lazy river” — as well as a multipurpose gym for basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer and floor hockey.

The facility would house cardiovascular-exercise machines and free weights. There also would be an indoor walking track, party and conference spaces and a zero-gravity area for aerial-performance training.

Board President Bill Reynolds said the idea of a midvalley recreation facility has been a topic of discussion for many years. Following several outreach meetings with supporters and critics, there is favorable consensus for the project to move forward, he said.

A recent survey of voters in the district indicates widespread support for the tax increase to fund the facility, Reynolds said. Those poll results were not available by Wednesday evening. The district covers portions of Eagle and Pitkin counties, including El Jebel, Basalt, Willits, Emma, Thomasville and parts of Missouri Heights and Old Snowmass.

“Over the past five or six years, we’ve done several surveys,” Reynolds said, “all of which have been supportive of a concept of a rec center. We definitely feel it’s time. There’s so much happening in the midvalley area. It’s kind of fun; it’s an exciting time.”

Construction-cost estimates are $25 million or less, Reynolds said. One property tax question will call for a 5-mill levy to back up the construction bond. The second question will ask for an additional 2.5 mills for annual operations and maintenance costs.

The total tax impact would be about $60 per year on each $100,000 of a home’s assessed value. Thus, the tab for a home with a $500,000 value would be about $300 per year, according to the district.

Phil Verleger, a Missouri Heights resident and a professional economist, is not a fan of the proposal. He said more money is needed to improve education facilities in the midvalley area and that a successful property tax increase for a rec center likely would make it harder to pass a bond-issue ballot item to help local schools.

“It’s an outrageous rip-off of the young in the valley for the benefit of older people like myself,” he said of the plan. “It continues a trend in the United States in which the old rob from the young.”

Proponents of a midvalley rec center are misleading voters by saying they will benefit from the project, he said.

“Personally, I would love to see this thing, but it should not be built on the backs of the children who are in school who are going to suffer because we won’t be able to pass bond issues to improve education. It will leave the young people of the valley farther behind their peers in the rest of the country,” Verleger said.

The board should examine the possibility of a scaled-down project, he added, comparing the current building plan to the Taj Mahal.

“There’s a recreational facility in Aspen and one in Glenwood Springs, but this is literally the Taj Mahal. This is something for the princes with their billions,” he said.

But the midvalley area lacks an adequate number of fitness facilities, Reynolds said, and it’s not realistic to expect residents to go to Aspen or Glenwood Springs to use the rec centers there.

“By having our own facility, we won’t have to travel up and down the valley,” he said. “People will be more inclined to use it regularly if it’s close by, and that in turn will lead to healthier lifestyles.”

More information about the project is available at http://www.midvalleyreccenter.com. Those with questions may call Crown Mountain Park executive director Chris Woods at 970-963-6030.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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