In April 1999, Durango voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund the construction, maintenance and operation of the Durango Community Recreation Center and make improvements and connectivity to the Animas River Trail.
This 20-year tax is scheduled to sunset in 2019 when the $14 million debt for the construction of the recreation center will be retired and paid in full.
This April, Durango voters will have an opportunity to extend this tax through 2039, allowing the city to continue to maintain and improve existing facilities and offer new and improved recreational opportunities through the acquisition of outdoor space.
Local resident and outdoor enthusiast Michael Lee remembers attending fair board meetings back in the mid-1990s, when future uses of the La Plata County fairgrounds property were being discussed. He said the grandstands were in disrepair and the rock wall was falling down. “The board was trying to figure out how to use all that property for the fair.”
Lee admits that his memory is a little hazy regarding dates and specifics, but ultimately through meetings with the fair board and a passionate group of sports advocates, they lobbied for mixed use with ballfields and the recreation center.
“There was a real strong allegiance in the county for 4-H, the animals and horse barn, and we proposed that ‘yes’ we should have that, but that having the ballfields and recreation center would be for all the kids – both city and county.
“The community recognized that we were no longer just a farming and ranching community, and we were beginning to attract more outside recreation,” Lee said.
The popularity and success of the recreation center is evident on any given day by visiting the facility and by the statistics on revenues and use generated by the city of Durango.
The revenues generated, mostly by user fees, although substantial, do not meet the yearly operating expenses. The current tax fills this gap between the yearly expenses and revenues; but without it, other funding will be required to fill this gap.
Anyone who lived in or visited Durango before 2005 can remember the early years of the Animas River Trail. This gem of our small community just keeps getting better and longer, providing a means of both recreation and transportation to all facets of our community.
Approval of the tax extension would encompass more than just the Animas River Trail and recreation center. It will allow for the development and maintenance of parks both existing and future, acquisition of open space, multi-modal connectivity improvements and other objectives as stated in the Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Master Plan.
Thus far, the revenues generated by this tax have allowed the city to cash fund many capital improvements without the need to bond.
We Durangoans value our outdoor space and recreational opportunities; the availability of these within our small town virtually are unmatched anywhere else.
You can make your voice heard by casting your vote in April and ensuring Durango’s future as a destination outdoor adventure land.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org.