Avon kicks off planning for future of Nottingham Lake and park
Permanent restrooms are in the park’s immediate future, while other improvements like a beach expansion are further down the road
On Tuesday night, the Avon Town Council had the first of many conversations about the future of Harry A. Nottingham Park.
While the town has made a number of improvements over the last six years, it has begun to contemplate future projects that could complete the park “with a uniform, high-quality design from one end to the other,” according to Town Manager Eric Heil’s report in the council packet for the Sept. 14 meeting.
This summer, there were a few improvements and alterations to the park and its programming. This included the addition of more recycling bins, the extension of the town’s open container rule and a second community resource officer in the park.
Additionally, after a low-key COVID-19 summer in 2020, the town welcomed back a full schedule of events, many of which took place at Nottingham Park. This included weekly concerts on Wednesdays and Sundays, movies in the park every Friday as well as bigger events like a fireworks-free Salute to the USA, Pride in the Park, the Flynn Creek Circus and more.
A full review of the summer’s events is scheduled to take place at the Oct. 12 Town Council meeting, according to Michael Labagh, the town’s interim recreation director.
Over the past few months, the town has collected input from Town Council, staff, the Planning and Zoning Commission and community members to help drive future improvements, details and designs. Many of these discussions and subsequent improvements have been driven by a desire to evaluate programming and events in the park as well as spread out usage and ensure the park is serving the needs of both visitors and residents.
Many of these projects are still in the planning or idea phase, and as such, the town has not yet identified the cost of many of the projects — something that Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes pointed out could sway council opinion in the future.
Restrooms a priority
Going forward, there was consensus among the Town Council that a priority needs to be adding permanent restrooms in the park.
This was something that was also identified in the town’s 2021 community survey, in which the majority of respondents indicated that a top improvement needed in the park was a public restroom near the beach. Additionally, respondents expressed desire for additional restrooms on the park’s eastern side near the amphitheater.
Currently, the town is designing a restroom that would be located by the north parking area off of West Beaver Creek Boulevard. Heil said that the restroom is on track to break ground in the spring of 2022 and be completed by fall of 2022. This is one of the projects that has been added to the town’s 5-year capital improvements project budget, allotting an estimated total of $500,000 between 2021 and 2022 for the project.
Town Council expressed majority support in putting the restroom as close to the parking lot as possible to preserve the park’s passive areas. There was also support for adding a rinse-off shower for sandy feet and beach equipment.
The Town Council has previously discussed plans to also have a permanent restroom structure as part of the future design for the old Town Hall site, located on the east side of the park. This would serve as an additional restroom for daily use and serve special events at the performance pavilion and stage.
Town Council members also gave direction for this site to include minimal development, limiting it for now to also have parking, a large amount of green space and new walkways.
Earlier this summer, the town eliminated parking along West Beaver Creek Boulevard, citing resident concerns about safety and trespassing as a result of allowing parking there.
In Tuesday’s presentation, staff presented an idea to add angled parking spaces along this street, addressing concerns from residents that there was not enough parking this year.
“We heard a lot of comments this summer about a lack of parking,” Heil said, adding that this fall the Town Council will review a comprehensive parking plan for the park.
This plan, he said, would likely include the recovery of parking at East Nottingham Park, parking on the north side of West Beaver Creek Boulevard, with safety enhancements.
“I think that makes sense for the idea of having dispersion around the park,” Heil said.
During public comment, two residents who live on West Beaver Creek Boulevard urged council not to revisit that parking project. One of them, Michael Moore, called it a “bad event waiting to happen.”
A bigger beach
Heil and town staff also recommended an expansion of the current beach area to the west. This would increase the beach size by 40% and be completed and open to the public by summer 2024. This was the fifth-most voted for improvement in the community survey, with 24.9% of respondents supporting the expansion.
“On a busy day when everything is being rented and people are out there, we’re at capacity,” Heil said. “From that, what I took is we’re not encouraging and trying to promote to get more people to the park, we’re not looking to expand getting people to the park. Obviously, it’s got its notoriety and a lot of people in the county are aware of it and they’re coming to enjoy it.”
One of the reasons for this potential expansion was that it could relocate the current Stand Up Paddle Colorado rental location, therefore decreasing the amount of overall beach space it occupies. The Stand Up Paddle Colorado location and operation has been a point of contention with council as several members have often expressed gratitude for the operation but also dissatisfaction with its appearance.
At the meeting, the owners of the operation expressed their willingness to work with the town on these items going forward, no matter what happens with the beach expansion.
However, multiple members of council expressed hesitation about prioritizing this project, highlighting that other changes could negate the need for the expansion. Council member Amy Phillips expressed that having additional parking and restrooms on the east side of the park could solve capacity problems on the beach.
“The park is a living being and it changes and morphs and it has been changing and morphing for the last 20 years,” Phillips said. “I think once that location (the old town hall site) is open and easy and accessible that it’s going to morph how the park behaves. I am not opposed to the expansion of the beach, I just am not convinced that we shouldn’t wait a year or two to do that.”
Smith Hymes said that she doesn’t support the expansion, ever, expressing instead a desire to preserve the lake’s natural beauty.
“Part of the beauty of that park is the grass in proximity to the lake and I don’t see the need to have more beach,” she said. “I don’t think we are trying to expand capacity, I don’t think we want to expand parking capacity — once we recover from having to close off the old town hall parking lots — I think that we have to respect what the park is and not ruin it by over-programming it.”
Additional projects, suggestions
While council only had time to discuss a few of the recommendations for future improvements — planning for future discussions to be held in October — Labagh did run through some of the other ideas.
There was general consensus given to repairing shoreline erosion on the east side of the fishing dock as well as for reconstructing the tennis and pickleball courts, something that had also been discussed in the town’s 5-year budget for Captial Improvement Projects.
Additional projects presented, but not discussed in full, are relocating the fit court and putting an additional picnic area in its current location, possibly moving and/or replacing current docks, improving several sections of landscaping and grass, improving the pedestrian connection to the LiftView Condominiums, improving the west park entrance and a few other ideas.
Council seemingly nixed the idea presented of widening the recreation path to improve the experience for pedestrians and bikers. The concern from council was that widening it would increase the speed of bikers and decrease overall safety.
Council Member RJ Andrade also requested that the town consider implementing code enforcement in the park, citing concerns about dogs off leash and speeding e-bikes.
“My main addition would be some form of code enforcement in the park. I walk my dog through the park every morning,” he said. “There’s dogs off leash that run and jump on mine and nobody ever enforces the leash law. The e-bikes on the path are going far too fast to be safely be walking my dog at that point in time.”
Smith Hymes also highlighted that as the town moves forward in considering these improvements and the park as a whole, that the addition of a staff member dedicated to park operations could be a positive asset.
“I wonder if we need a park superintendent,” she said. “There’s just so many aspects of this critical, critical part of our town infrastructure and I wonder whether we do have like a park guru, who is ultimately responsible for everything and who’s in the park regularly and will notice all this stuff themselves.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.