Gypsum engages California group to research ambitious parks plan | VailDaily.com

Gypsum engages California group to research ambitious parks plan

This map of the town of Gypsum shows the five areas where the Gypsum Recreation Committee has proposed construction of new amenities. The committee has floated the idea of a sales tax election to pay for the projects.

GYPSUM — The Gypsum Town Council isn't ready to commit to a November election to ask voters to fund for an ambitious parks and recreation plan, but members are willing to continue consideration of the option.

They are also willing to accept some professional advice.

Council members last week signed a non-binding engagement letter with the Trust for Public Lands, a California-based group that provides consulting services to communities working on park projects.

The organization's mission is "To create parks and protect land for people, ensuring health, livable communities for generations to come." The organization recently worked with the town of Eagle on the successful sales tax election to fund the Eagle River Park.

"This will start the process of having the Trust for Public Lands investigate needs and costs and best case scenarios," said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll.

Shroll noted in looking at a possible parks election, town council members have stated that there is a lot of background work that must be done before approaching the voters.

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Ambitious idea

The Gypsum Recreation Committee — the citizen group that worked with the town and Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District to bring the Gypsum Recreation Center on line — has approached the town council with a proposal to develop $15 million worth of park and recreation projects in town.

The committee compiled a lengthy list of proposals and floated the idea of financing the work by taking a sales tax increase ballot question to the voters.

Initial work by the recreation committee indicates that a one percent sales tax increase in Gypsum could generate $18 million for projects, based on a 30-year bond issue at a 4.5 percent interest rate.

If Gypsum voters approved the increase, then the town's rate would still compare favorably to sales tax rates in nearby municipalities. Gypsum's sales tax would climb from its current 7.4 percent to 8.4 percent, the current total amount charged in Vail and Avon. In neighboring Eagle, the total sales tax amount is 8.9 percent.

Professional help

While they floated the sales tax idea, members of the Gypsum Recreation Committee also noted that the town needs some professional guidance as it considers the projects and the election proposal. They suggested bringing in a representative from the Trust for Public Lands to discuss the options.

That happened this past week when Trust for Public Lands Associate Conservation Strategies Director David Weinstein and Colorado Director of Land Protection Justin Spring met with the council.

The Trust representatives offered information of their organization's 20 year history of successful state, county, municipal and special district measures and noted there are five steps for a sucking ballot measure:

• Feasibility research.

• Public opinion survey.

• Program recommendations.

• Ballot language.

• Campaign.

In Gypsum's case, the work is still in the research phase.

By signing the technical assistance letter with the Trust, Gypsum officials have engaged the group to create a feasibility report for the parks plan. When the report is complete, the town will decided whether or not to conduct a public option survey to gauge not only support and opposition to the plan, but also to determine citizens' tax tolerance and their recreation priorities.

Five ideas

The Gypsum Recreation Committee has identified five areas of town for improvements, along with estimated costs for recreational improvements and facilities:

• IK Bar Ranch area, near Red Hill and Gypsum Creek Middle schools ($6 million).

• Buckhorn Valley Wildlife Preserve ($6 million).

• Gypsum Recreation Center improvements ($2.5 million).

• Gypsum Creek Golf Course clubhouse improvements ($500,000).

• Eagle Riverfront improvements ($500,000).

Source: Gypsum Recreation Committee.

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