Party over for Aspen’s parks? |

Party over for Aspen’s parks?

ASPEN Aspens special events arent so special anymore.There are so many of them now that they have become a burden on two of the citys most prized assets Wagner and Rio Grande parks. And while they contributed nearly $20 million in sales tax revenue last year alone, the costs to the city and public for the dozen or so special events that Aspen hosts have grown to a point that are no longer acceptable, according to the special events committee.The citys parks department incurs about $125,000 a year in expenses for labor and materials. That is offset by only $9,000 in park rental fees. Those expenses dont include additional costs associated with other city resources, said City Clerk Kathryn Koch and parks department staff in a memo to the City Council.The council is scheduled tonight to take measures designed to alleviate the wear and tear on the parks which could involve reducing the number of events and activities, building more playing fields, or using event flooring to protect the turf. Buying flooring, for events such as the Food & Wine Classic and Jazz Aspen Snowmass, is estimated to cost $530,000. Building a natural or artificial turf on a new athletic field would cost between $500,000 and $1 million, which doesnt include land prices.In recent years theres been a growing number of competing requests for access to the parks for community activities, event venues and athletic fields, according to city staff.Compounding the problem was the City Councils 2001 decision to allow events at Wagner and Rio Grande parks in the winter. Prior to that, the only events scheduled in the two parks were Food & Wine, Ruggerfest, weekly rugby games and the Motherlode Volleyball Tournament, which are held during the summer.Scheduled events now include Food & Wine expanding from six days to 12 days; six to eight rugby games, and sometimes twice-weekly practices; July fourth fireworks; the Arts and Crafts Fair; Motherlode Volleyball; Ruggerfest for four days with more than 30 matches; as well as fall youth soccer practice and games which are held from September to November. All of those activities leave the turf unable to heal, city staff said.That list doesnt include general public use for pick-up soccer, Frisbee tossing and dog running. The parks department also has requests for another art show, weekly movies, one or two big screen events, a vendor tent and vehicle advertising for the Winter X Games, and a hot tub event in August. Everybody wants a piece of Aspen and not everybodys going to get it, City Councilman Jack Johnson said. We cant close parks to the citizenry all the time for special events.During the past three winters, Wagner Park was the venue for the X Games concerts, which required eight days of snow compaction, the Comedy Fest tent for seven days, and a private party tent that also was used for a Winterskol venue. It remained in the park for a month during a highly attended New Years Eve celebration, city staff said.Rio Grande Park has similar usage spring and fall soccer, rugby practice, Ruggerfest, Motherlode Volleyball, Jazz Aspen, Ducky Derby, Race for the Cure, Snow Polo and daily non-scheduled use.The two other downtown parks, Paepcke and Koch, also hosted numerous events this past summer, and these too are also showing signs of overuse and turf deterioration, and consequently we heard concerns from neighbors about trash and noise in their residential neighborhoods, the memo reads.The alternatives in front of the City Council are:Status quo: Maintain the current turf management practices of closing Wagner Park in the spring and leave the other parks for the publics enjoyment, which include nine located within five blocks of each other. Event requests will be determined on a case by case basis. No new events would be allowed in Wagner or Rio Grande parks.Flooring: Buy temporary flooring for Wagner and Rio Grande parks. Staff said the City Council should consider what the community can tolerate in terms of disruptions to parks access and their availability, impacts to public safety services, transportation and overall quality of life issues.Reduce the number of events: In the commercial core, establish a finite number of events for each venue and only replace them when an existing one leaves.Using Wagner Park as an event field: But include Motherlode Volleyball and rugby.Johnson said Aspen has reached its capacity in terms of special events.We have a lot and some have more impacts than others, he said. There are natural limits to things and we are at that

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