One way or another, kids will play at the tree farm next spring | AspenTimes.com

One way or another, kids will play at the tree farm next spring

One way or another, kids will start playing ball next spring in the former alfalfa field and cow pasture at the old Mount Sopris Tree Farm.

Midvalley voters will decide Nov. 5 whether $5.1 million of general obligation bonds can be issued to create a new recreation district. The bonds would be repaid through a property tax increase.

If approved, the district would build, maintain and operate an array of sports and recreational amenities at the tree farm. The property and the district would be renamed Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District.

The Eagle County Commissioners have approved a plan which includes two softball/baseball fields; two soccer fields; a playground; a picnic area; a skateboard park; volleyball, tennis and basketball courts; and trails.

About 60 of the 128 acres would remain untouched. The southerly part of the property, closest to the Roaring Fork River corridor, would remain open space, according to the plan.

Approval of the district would allow those facilities to be built in a phased approach.

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If the district fails, kids will still benefit from a more modest plan. Eagle County created one soccer and one baseball field on the property this year. Those fields will be ready for play by spring, according to county administrator Jack Ingstad.

However, county officials clearly hope that the construction of the ball fields inspired midvalley residents to envision the potential of the property, Ingstad said.

“The intent was to jump-start the rec. district by putting our money where our mouth is,” he said.

Eagle County spent between $4.5 million and $5 million on upgrades at the tree farm, including construction of a new community center and county office building.

Parking and landscaping were included around the area targeted for ball fields. Bathrooms at the community center will be accessible from outdoors.

In addition, the ground was graded for the two ball fields, both of which can be used for soccer. Irrigation systems were placed in the fields, and they were seeded this summer, Ingstad said.

Eagle County typically doesn’t fund recreation programs, and it doesn’t have funds available for additional amenities at the tree farm, he stressed. But the two fields that were built would be available for play next year even though no plan is in place for scheduling events or operating the facilities, Ingstad said.

Proponents of the recreation district said Crown Mountain Park is a great amenity that would help give the El Jebel area more of a community feel and identity. The proposed tax increase to fund the district is a small price to pay for those benefits, they said.

A property tax of 2.5 mills per $1,000 of valuation would be levied to repay the bonds. That would mean a house with an actual property value of $300,000 would pay an additional $75.64 per year in property taxes, according to district organizers.

The proposed recreation district stretches from Old Snowmass to the Eagle County border with Garfield County. It includes the high-density areas of El Jebel and Basalt along with part of Missouri Heights, the Fryingpan Valley, Capitol Creek Valley and Snowmass Creek Valley.

The proposed district doesn’t extend into Garfield County.

A political rally for Crown Mountain Park will feature a variety of community events Sunday, Oct. 27. The Crown Mountain Community Festival will feature a fun run, family walk, lunch, tour of the 128-acre property and dedication of a soccer field in honor of Nick McGrath, a tireless promoter of midvalley athletics who died of a heart attack last summer.

The McGrath dedication will be at 10:45 a.m. A community photo will follow at 11 a.m. on the soccer field. A lunch will be offered from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and a tour of the property will be held at 2 p.m.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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