Durango City Council on Tuesday supported a plan to develop Durango Mesa Park, formerly known as Ewing Mesa, but fell short of committing money to improve the property.
The Durango Mesa Park Foundation, a nonprofit that owns 1,850 acres southeast of downtown Durango, sought a commitment of $5 million over five years from City Council to improve the property as part of a transfer of land to the city for development of recreational amenities.
The request for a commitment of funds is down from an estimate of $100 million made years ago for Phase 1 of the project.
Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said the city worked with Durango Mesa Foundation to refine a Phase 1 investment, which would include infrastructure improvements, a bike park, user-specific trails, an off-leash dog park and a disc golf course.
“These are numbers that we feel are affordable to the city,” Metz said.
City Council did not commit to an investment, citing a desire to allow future elected officials an opportunity to direct city spending without encumbrance. But each councilor did offer support for developing Durango Mesa Park as a recreational amenity and directed staff to continue discussions about how to move forward with a partnership.
La Plata County commissioners committed to spending $3 million to improve the property, said Deputy County Manager Mike Segrest. The financial promise is a “very strong commitment to making something happen up there,” he said.
City Councilor Dean Brookie said the chance to partner with the Durango Mesa Park Foundation and La Plata County to develop the property “is one of the most unique opportunities we’ve had in Durango.” Councilor Barbara Noseworthy called the proposal a “wonderful opportunity to partner,” and Councilor Kim Baxter said “I don’t see any reason to not go forward” with planning development of the property.
The city needs “to give as much assurance as we’re capable of,” City Councilor Chris Bettin said of a commitment to partner with Durango Mesa Park Foundation. Mayor Melissa Youssef asked that the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board be included in further conversations about how to best improve the property.
“The hope is that everyone will see such great value in it that it won’t even be a question,” Youssef said of city spending on the Durango Mesa Park project.
Marc Katz, who purchased the property in 2015 and donated it to Durango Mesa Park Foundation last year, said the most immediate improvements for the property are infrastructure-related, including a roundabout at the entrance to the property on Colorado Highway 3 to improve access.
Initial infrastructure investment for the property would open the area to public use, which would establish the park “in a minimalistic form,” Katz said. Offering public access to Durango Mesa Park will give the public an opportunity to see the value in developing the property, he said.
The city also has an opportunity to seek funding from community partners with an interest in developing the property, Metz said.
“We certainly do have great partnership with Trails 2000, and there’s huge interest with the cycling community to help us with raising funds,” she said. “Once we get started, people will absolutely come and partner with the city.”