Durango Parks and Recreation proposes lofty goals over the next 10 years, including updating the rec center, improving amenities at Lake Nighthorse and starting work on Durango Mesa Park (Ewing Mesa).
The proposals are laid out in a 280-page final draft plan, which will eventually become the city’s 10-year master plan, or guiding document, for the Parks and Recreation Department. The plan calls for making permanent a three-quarters-of-a-cent sales tax to help pay for more than $300 million in capital-improvement projects.
It also catalogs the city’s indoor recreation space and makes a recommendation that more is needed, despite responses to a statistically valid survey and two online polls that suggest residents prefer investment in existing trails and facilities.
“We’d like to provide service to families that’s affordable, safe and fun,” said Cathy Metz, director of Parks and Recreation. “What’s the best way to accommodate that? It (the draft master plan) sort of looks at what makes the most sense. And ultimately, the community will decide in terms of indoor rec space.”
The department is accepting comments through August on the draft plan and will include suggestions or recommendations from residents in meeting materials provided to the City Council and advisory boards.
Anyone interested in commenting on the draft may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Metz said the department has received about 20 comments since the plan was released last month.
The parks, open space, trails and recreation master plan was presented in July to the Durango City Council and offers direction for the next decade. The Parks and Recreation Department plans to present a document for adoption to City Council in September.
The draft planning document recommends high-level objectives for the department and proposes how it can attain those goals in the next 10 years. The recommended “big moves” – described as “overarching and visionary in nature” – include connecting trails, implementing the Durango Mesa Park plan, addressing old facilities and infrastructure, renovating the Durango Community Recreation Center or building another one, and developing the Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area.
The plan also calls for identifying sustainable funding sources, seeking alternative revenue and enhancing branding and marketing.
Anyone who buys anything in Durango city limits pays three-quarters of a penny on every dollar, or 3 cents on every $4 spent, in sales tax to fund Parks and Recreation.
That percentage is made up of two sales taxes approved by voters in 2005 and 2015. Durango shoppers pay a total of 8.4% in sales tax, including 3.5% to the city, 2% to La Plata County and 2.9% to the state of Colorado.
The 2005 quarter-cent tax supports the preservation, acquisition and maintenance of open space and will sunset, or cease to exist, in 2026.
The 2015 half-cent tax – a levy approved in 1999 and reauthorized four years ago to pay for construction, operations and maintenance of Parks and Recreation facilities – will sunset in 2039.
PROS Consulting, contracted by the city in 2018 to survey the community and provide the Parks and Recreation Department direction, recommend “the city should ask voters to permanently continue the dedicated funding source.”
The revenue generated by the dedicated sales tax in years past paid for “significant segments of the hard surface trail system to be constructed, including the Animas River Trail and SMART 160 Trail as well as the development of new parks and preservation of natural lands,” consultants wrote in the draft report.
Consultants also prioritized almost 50 capital-improvement projects for the department. The list of high-cost maintenance, ongoing work and proposed projects could cost the city upward of $332.47 million to complete, consultants estimated.
The plan delineates between ongoing, short-, medium- and long-term projects ranging in cost from $200,000 for new trails at Three Springs subdivision to more than $100 million for development of Durango Mesa Park.
Consultants identified six projects estimated to cost $10 million or more, including a $38 million community park in Three Springs, a medium-term project, and a $45 million new recreation center, a long-term project.
Medium-term projects would occur in three to six years and long-term projects would occur in six to 10 years.
The prioritized short-term projects – recommended to be implemented in the next three years – are estimated to cost $24.65 million. Consultants suggest upgrades to the Animas River Trail and improvements to Santa Rita Park, Chapman Hill and the historic Mason Center on East Second Avenue.
Ongoing projects – including park improvements, river access and new trail amenities – are budgeted to cost the city $139.35 million, consultants found.
The plan also suggests Parks and Recreation staff leverage alternative forms of funding, including state or federal grants, corporate sponsorships or partnerships, and crowd-sourcing or private donations.