Guest commentary: The driving force behind a community rec center | AspenTimes.com

Guest commentary: The driving force behind a community rec center

Seven years ago I was approached by a friend asking me if I was interested in investigating the possibility of a recreation center in the midvalley. At the time, I was pregnant with my third child and driving to Snowmass three times a week to the only facility, besides the Glenwood Recreation Center, that had a kids' club. A group of community members started informal meetings about a midvalley recreation center.

We discussed what the facility would be, where it could be and how it would be paid for. After evaluating 22 sites, Crown Mountain Park became the fron-runner as a location for various reasons. The benefits of Crown Mountain Park were the proximity to multiple neighborhoods, the fact that the property didn't need to be purchased since it is already in a lease-hold from Eagle County, the accessibility to Highway 82 and RFTA, as well as pedestrians and cyclists, and, of course, the existing outdoor facilities. There was a professional site study done that also supported the park as an ideal location.

Since Crown Mountain Park is a special district, the only means of funding improvements and maintenance for the park are through property taxes. Other successful recreation centers controlled by special districts include Gypsum Recreation Center, Winter Park Recreation Center and the Foothills Recreation District in Denver. Special districts enable a much larger number of people to vote on issues and share the costs. Other examples of special districts include the Basalt Fire District, the Mid-Valley Metro District, the RE-1 School District and the Basalt Library. The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District is a large region, following the same borders as the Basalt Fire District. There are currently a little more than 6,000 registered voters in the district.

Crown Mountain Park is about an equal distance from Carbondale and Basalt high schools. The proposed facility would enable both schools to have a swim team, something that Glenwood and Aspen already have facilities for. Additionally, the gym would give kids a chance to practice baseball and soccer indoors when frequently inclement weather cancels their outdoor practices. Basalt school gyms are so maxed-out that such opportunities do not now exist. Rec-league sports also have no space to play. This recreation center could help relieve that situation. It also could provide after-school activities that are similar to those provided by Youth Zone in Aspen.

Recreation is important for all age groups, not just kids. It is directly related to obesity and mental health. For anyone who argues that we should just exercise outside or ride the bus to Aspen or Glenwood, I challenge you to ask your 80-year-old neighbor to do that on a snowy day in October. Besides, driving to other rec centers isolates us from our community.

I'm all for exercising outside. I'm a regular of the Arbaney-Kittle Trail, the Rio Grande Trail and the Basalt pool, but there are days those options just don't work for many of us. Recreation tends to be a habit, and if an elderly person can walk outside in the park on a nice day and inside on a stormy day, I can guarantee that person is in better health than if he or she only gets in a walk when they can go outside. Also, consider that this recreation center would accommodate those recovering after an injury. Anyone who has blown their knee or had a hip replacement knows that outdoor exercise options are limited.

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There have been plenty of comments on what we should or should not have in this facility. Many studies were completed on what people wanted, and the options were rated on how much they cost. We have done our best to determine what is wanted today and what other facilities don't currently provide. Additionally, if you have tried to use the Eagle County Building for meetings or parties, it frequently is booked already. There aren't many other options for indoor meeting and activity spaces.

The Mid Valley Recreation Center would be owned by the residents and controlled by the residents. Most importantly, this is an asset that would build community vibrancy. It would provide a safe place for our youth and a dedicated space for our senior citizens. It would keep us off of Highway 82, near our homes, and in good health and spirits. It would help us build our own identity and interact with our community.

I would miss my spin-class friends but not my regular drives to Snowmass.

Aimee Conrardy is a board member of the Crown Park and Recreation District and an Eagle County resident.