Task force gauges support for rec district in midvalley | AspenTimes.com

Task force gauges support for rec district in midvalley

A citizens’ group that is promoting $7.2 million worth of recreational facilities at the Mount Sopris Tree Farm is polling midvalley residents to see if they like the plan well enough to pay for it.

The Mount Sopris Recreation District Task Force hopes there is enough support to justify placing a funding question on the November 2002 ballot, according to committee vice chair Laurie Gish-Soliday.

A property tax increase is being promoted as the way to pay for the ball fields, playgrounds and picnic facilities. The tax requires the approval of voters within a proposed parks and recreation district that stretches from Catherine Store to Old Snowmass.

The survey is being conducted after seven years of debate about what to do with the former U.S. Forest Service tree nursery.

“It’s been pounded into the dirt,” Gish-Soliday said of the planning process. “It’s time to do something about it.”

Citizens came up with a plan for the 128-acre property during a process organized in the late 1990s by the town of Basalt. The Eagle County commissioners formally reviewed and approved a master plan for the property last year.

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The plan features everything from soccer and ball fields to tennis and basketball courts. There is a BMX track and skateboard park. More passive uses like picnic areas and playgrounds are on the drawing board.

The facility would be served by a concession stand and bathrooms.

@ATD Sub heds:County’s funds limited

@ATD body copy: Eagle County has spent in-kind funds and time rough-grading the property and preparing it for construction of soccer and ball fields. However, county officials said they don’t have the funds to maintain the facilities, let alone build all the sports and recreation amenities envisioned for the property.

That’s where the task force fits in. The volunteer group has drafted a service plan with details on how a recreation district would be operated and funded.

“This effort is meant to address the shortage of recreational facilities and playing fields and the inaccessibility or over-scheduling of existing facilities,” says an introduction to the survey.

The survey results and details about the proposed parks and recreation district will be unveiled to the public in a meeting tentatively scheduled on April 17 in El Jebel.

The survey has nine questions designed to determine if voters would support formation and funding of the district as well as the facilities people want constructed.

“Now is the time to get an indication from the community to either proceed with the plan and the development of a ballot question, to amend the plan or to withdraw the idea altogether,” the survey introduction says.

@ATD Sub heds:Expenditure, tax plans

@ATD body copy: A Web site set up by the task force shows that $4.1 million is needed for construction of the various sports fields and recreational facilities.

Landscaping is the most costly item at more than $500,000.

Design and engineering would add $2 million to the bill. Another $1 million is needed for utility work, according to the task force’s “draft service plan.”

If approved by voters, the recreation district would immediately issue $5 million to start work. Construction would be phased with the emphasis placed on facilities highest in demand by the public.

To pay for the district, the proponents believe a property tax increase of 3.33 mills is needed. It would raise an estimated $600,000 annually.

The cost to households would be an estimated $91.50 annually for a house valued at $300,000.

Users fees would raise about another $10,000 annually, the service plan said.

The draft service plan is packed with details about the facilities that would be built and the operation of the district. It is located at http://www.midvalleyrecdist.org.

Midvalley residents are being urged by the task force to return their survey by March 12.

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