David Holub/Durango Herald illustration
David Holub/Durango Herald illustration
City of Durango staff expect to spend two years updating the Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Master Plan that will guide city decisions about how to spend the dedicated sales tax revenue that funds the Parks and Recreation Department.
They plan to start the conversation Monday about long-term goals.
“We want the community to help us reset and guide us into the next five to 10 years,” said Parks and Rec Director Cathy Metz.
City staff plans to survey residents about their parks and rec priorities as part of the update to make sure they capture opinions from the entire community.
The city’s last parks and rec plan was finished in 2010. Since then, some major projects have been completed or are underway:
The Smith Sports Complex, ballfields on the Fort Lewis College campus and a new gymnastics facility in Bodo Industrial Park are complete. Construction on the softball fields at FLC is ongoing. The city plans to start rebuilding the parks and rec shop at Greenmount Cemetery this year. The city also purchased large parcels of open space in Horse Gulch and the Oxbow Park and Preserve. Preservation along the ridgelines and the Animas River corridor were both priorities in the 2010 plan.Metz said there are several ongoing needs and new opportunities that will likely be part of the discussion about updating the master plan. For example:The city could acquire more open space. Durango Mesa Park could be a potential area to develop trails and athletic fields. Mark Katz, a founder of the former Mercury Payment Systems, intends to donate property for the park above Colorado Highway 3 for public uses, such as a multiuse events center and facilities for horse stalls. The city plans to design a new bike park in Cundiff Park this year, but Durango Mesa Park could also be a place to build more trails for cyclists and hikers.
Mary Monroe Brown, executive director of Trails 2000, said the park has great potential as a place for a cross country running course, equestrian loop, trails to serve cross country skiers and a mountain bike skills area.
“Marc Katz’s generosity is creating an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often, if ever,” she said.
Some trails in the area could be developed for cyclists to train and for events, such as the Colorado Cycling League’s state championship, which Durango will host in 2018.
“Most of the trails we have are well-suited for people to go have a good time, but they are not well-suited for the people who want to be professional athletes to get better,” said Ed Zink, owner of Mountain Bike Specialists and a member of the multi-events center task force.
Developing more challenging trails could eliminate some of the conflicts between people using trails for recreation and people training in other areas, he said.
Trails are also one of the most cost-effective investments the city can make in outdoor recreation. Residents ranked trails first in a statistically valid survey done in preparation for the 2010 master plan, so trail projects that have not been completed need to be a priority going forward, Monroe said.
City staff also expects to continue to improve soft-surface trail connectivity and finish the Animas River Trail, Metz said.
Besides new parks and trails projects, Metz said the city also has facilities needs, such as a year-round ice rink, more space for the summer child care program, upgrades to the Chapman Hill ski area and developing pickleball courts, which is a rapidly growing sport.
Pickleball – a combination of pingpong, badminton and tennis – was not part of the parks and rec master plan conversation in 2010. But there is growing demand to host tournaments.
Brian Blanchard, president of the Southwest Colorado Pickleball Association, said the group has 90 paying members and an additional 120 members. The group would like the city to build eight dedicated pickleball courts, which would allow them to host tournaments. Currently, there are three pickleball courts inside the Durango Community Recreation Center, he said.
“It appeals to a lot of people that thought they had to give up tennis,” Blanchard said.
One of the bigger facilities considerations is the Mason Center on East Third Avenue. Previously home to the gymnastics program, the aged and crumbling building likely needs to be torn down, Metz said. But right now, the city needs it for child care space and temporary offices for parks and rec staff, she said.
If the city tears it down, Metz said it is uncertain what will take its place.
Durango Herald file