As the Herald reported on June 8, negotiations are under way for renewal of the long-standing recreational partnership between Fort Lewis College and the city of Durango.
This wonderful partnership ensures that the community's top-notch softball complex will remain on the college campus, benefiting the thousands of residents and students who use it each year.
In addition to the developments related to the FLC softball complex, I would like for the community to be aware of additional recreational partnership opportunities - for tennis courts and multipurpose fields - the city is exploring with the college. Recent meetings between city and FLC staffs have focused on upgrading the tennis courts on campus at low cost for combined resident and student use. Equally exciting, the city and FLC are looking together at the possibility of developing the large swath of unused land on the northeast corner of the campus for multipurpose fields to accommodate soccer, baseball and other field-sport needs.
By many measures, the city does not currently have adequate facilities to meet the needs of community field-sports enthusiasts. One of the best ways to meet the overall needs of local recreationalists is by maximizing the use of all recreational assets in the community. Therefore, it makes good sense for local governments to maintain recreational partnerships. Riverview Sports complex, baseball fields at the La Plata County Fairgrounds and multipurpose fields at Escalante Middle School are all excellent examples of governmental entities and private sports organizations working cooperatively to meet the recreational needs of a variety of users.
The new multipurpose fields at FLC would serve the city and the college well. Adjacent to FLC dormitories and conveniently accessed from all over town, the new fields would be a striking improvement to the roundabout entry to FLC via Goeglein Gulch Road. Moreover, development of additional fields at FLC would deliver a shot in the arm to our downtown economy by making possible a regional soccer tournament in the fall to match the spring tournament that delivers significant financial benefits to local businesses and our overall economy. Reportedly ("Shoot Out kicks recession," Herald, May 10), the Durango Shoot Out sponsored by the Durango Youth Soccer Association, is one of the spring season's top three tourist attractions in Durango.
Based on information from within the city manager's office, we must conclude that all park development projects that are dependent upon future tax revenues are likely to be deferred for years to come in these lean economic times. While we allow fund balances to rebuild over time, we will need to find creative ways to meet current and near-future facility needs.
The new fields at FLC would meet the immediate demands of our field-sports enthusiasts until FLC needs the land - which could be many years - and offer a bridge to our long-range plan for completion of major capital projects by the Durango Parks and Recreation Department.
The fields would be inexpensive to construct and maintain, and easy to irrigate with raw water from the nearby reservoir, a huge plus during these belt-tightening economic times. On our state college campus, with the understanding that the new fields are an interim installation, we would achieve additional cost savings by using portable restroom facilities and unpaved parking lots.
One great way to get the fields at FLC under way would be to take advantage of the Army National Guard's offer in March to cover labor and equipment costs on dirt-moving projects as part of the Guard's Innovative Readiness Training program ("City nears unique deal with Guard," Herald, March 30.) This would be a win-win. The Guard would be given the chance to train for upcoming reconstruction missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The city, the college and field-sports organizations would get new multipurpose fields at low-cost.
It's as simple as this: Expanding the city's partnership with FLC is a cost-effective means to meet our immediate facility needs.
Extending the softball lease, updating the tennis courts and developing several new multipurpose fields on the FLC campus are terrific, inexpensive opportunities for recreationalists - and something that Durango can afford to do right now.
City Councilor Leigh Meigs is the mayor of Durango.