‘Broken Bridge,’ camping, bike park top list of projects for Gypsum’s five-year rec plan
GYPSUM — For a couple of decades now, the Gypsum Recreation Committee has been the little group that could.
Judging by the new five-year recreation plan compiled by the committee’s members, they don’t plan to give up that mantle.
Back in the early 2000s, members of the group came up with the then-audacious plan to build a large recreation center in town. Those were the days before Costco, and many area residents questioned the community’s ability to finance such an ambitious undertaking.
At the time, Gypsum officials contemplated taking on about $6 million in debt to build a center. But after the committee spearheaded an outreach program to find out what community residents wanted, the project quickly swelled to a $13.5 million effort.
Eventually, Gypsum residents demonstrated they were willing to finance the $13.5 million project, approving a 1 percent sales tax ballot question by a nearly 4-to-1 margin. Shortly thereafter, Costco built its Gypsum warehouse, and with that additional sales tax generator, the town paid off its 20-year recreation center debt in just eight years. At that point, the town dropped the 1 percent sales tax charges.
Tuesday night, Sept. 25, the current recreation committee members presented a new five-year plan to members of the Gypsum Town Council. It’s another bold proposal from the group — carrying a total price tag of nearly $11.2 million and touching nearly every corner of the community.
During the course of the five-year plan, there are some large-scale recreation proposals from the committee. But initially, the group’s proposals are more modest.
For 2019, the committee has proposed the town set aside $497,000 in its general fund budget to finance three projects — The Broken Bridge and Eagle River Plan at $100,000, campground improvements at $250,000 and the IK Bar Bike Park at $147,000.
As committee member Tom Pohl noted, the name of the Broken Bridge projects details part of the need. The no-longer-used concrete bridge that spans the Eagle River east of the U.S. Highway 6 bridge is a popular spot to access the river.
“Popularity of this put-in and take-out area puts a lot of parking pressure on the area during the summer months, but also brings a lot of visitors to this recreation area,” notes the recreation plan. “This area is also a key component to the 2017 Master Plan in terms of revitalization of several core areas of town.”
The project would include improving existing parking areas, new parking, minor improvements to the bridge, screening trash and portable toilet facilities, installing picnic tables and tearing down old structures in the area.
In a recreation survey conducted earlier this year, residents indicated a desire for additional camping facilities and improvements to existing ones. In 2019, the committee proposed campground projects at both the U.S. Bureau of Land Management property west of town and at LEDE Reservoir.
The IK Bar Bike Park is part of a 2015 master plan for the town property located east of Gypsum Creek Middle School. A few years ago, when extra dirt became available to the town at no cost, initial work was done at the site. In 2019, the committee has recommended extending the town’s water main to the area, building a pump track and a paved tot track and irrigating the entire bike park area.
Larger vision, bigger dollars
Looking further out, the recreation committee has identified bigger projects and acknowledged those efforts would need dedicated funding. That would likely mean going back to the voters with a bond issue request.
The five-year, big-ticket items identified by the committee include:
Gypsum Recreation Center expansion: The expansion would feature a two story “bump-out” on the north side of the gym and gymnastics area to accommodate more fitness activities. Other expansion possibilities include creating a new gymnastics area, expanding the gym area into the existing gymnastics area, modifying office areas and expanding the Howard Head therapy area. Estimated cost is $1.32 million
BLM Hardscrabble Trails Project: Goal is to increase the number and miles of trails south of town between Eagle and Gypsum, encouraging connection between communities and enhanced economic development opportunities. Both nonmotorized and motorized trails will be pursued. Estimated cost is $586,400.
Gypsum Wildlife Park: Located at the 60-acre property formerly proposed as the Saddle Ridge Golf Course, this project includes creation of a reservoir and a trail network for hikers, bikers, four-wheelers and horseback riders, who can access public lands from the site. The property also lies north of the town’s 80-acre parcel, so there is the capability of planning even more amenities such as primitive camping, expert biking trails for advanced riders, additional water features and outdoor courses. Estimated cost is $2 million.
IK Bar Recreation Area: Recreation development on the 13-acre IK Bar area represents the largest project proposed by the committee. While a master plan for the park was completed in 2015, several elements of that proposal have since been built in other parts of town. For example, Gypsum partnered with Eagle County Schools to complete improvements to the baseball field at Eagle Valley High School, so a regulation-size baseball field at IK Bar may no longer be a priority. Similarly, pickleball courts have been built at Gypsum Creek Golf Club.
The estimated cost for the IK Bar Recreation Area is $5.93 million and the five-year plan notes “until a more accurate, full design cost is determined, the original estimate is being used as a project placeholder.”
Just a recommendation …
While the recreation committee has completed its five-year plan and submitted the document to the town, it is the Gypsum Town Council that will decide the next move.
“These are considerations and recommendations at this point and are not final or approved,” Gypsum Community Development Director Lana Bryce said. “Also, the future sales tax question is just being investigated at this point.”
But for now at least, council members noted they will be compiling the town’s budget in the coming weeks so the request for 2019 recreation funding is well timed.