Mountain Recreation begins outreach efforts for expansion project eyed for November ballots
Improvements tabbed at $80 million feature recreation facilities in Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum
For the past couple of years, Mountain Recreation has been busy asking residents what they want to see included in comprehensive upgrades to its facilities in Eagle, Gypsum and Edwards.
Now the folks at Mountain Recreation are ready to share what they heard, and what those plans will cost. This summer, district representatives will reach out to voters in places where they congregate to share the information and lay the groundwork for a November 2021 ballot question.
This effort is called All Access Rec and the work launched this month with a direct mailing to Mountain Recreation voters and an announcement on the district’s website.
“It’s just time,” said Mike McCormack, a member of the Mountain Recreation board of directors. “We are having trouble meeting everyone’s needs now and while there is a pain point associated with spending money on anything, we feel it’s not going to get cheaper in the future.”
The contemplated ask is large — $80 million. But McCormack noted the district is also working on public/private partnerships and other financing opportunities to bring that down into the $60 million range.
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On top of those efforts to cut back the total ask, McCormack said Mountain Recreation plans to publicize its track record of conservative spending. The district — formerly known as the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District — is currently debt-free after early payoff of its previous facility construction costs.
“History strongly supports the fact that the district does not spend money frivolously,” McCormack said. “We eke out every bit of life from our facilities and we are at the point there they are just showing their age.”
The youngest Mountain Recreation facility — the Edwards Field House — opened in 2009. The Gypsum Recreation center opened in 2006 and the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink opened in 2003.
If the idea of a large Mountain Recreation ballot issue sounds familiar, that’s because it’s been in the planning stages for more than a year. Then COVID-19 hit.
“We were going to approach the voters during last year’s presidential election, but considering everything it seemed like a tone deaf time to go to the public for any additional funding,” McCormack said.
But as the valley has reopened after months of pandemic restrictions, Mountain Recreation participation has boomed.
“All Mountain Rec programs and activities are running at max capacity,” stated the district announcement released this week. “Mountain Rec is eager to resume proactive planning to ensure our community’s health, wellness, and economic vitality. At the direction of the Mountain Rec board, our community and staff were instructed to dream big, and dream big they have, as the district embarks on a major capital improvement project – All Access Rec.”
“Our services are ingrained in our valley’s history, as are our facilities. Countless children have learned to swim, swung their first bat, or kicked their first soccer ball with us.” said Janet Bartnik, Mountain Recreation’s executive director. “Today, we face a significant challenge: we’re unable to serve many members of the community due to our aging amenities and undersized facilities, built to serve only half of today’s population. We need to increase access to support our thriving community and the only way to do that is by building today for a healthy tomorrow.”
McCormack said, in planning for the future, the Gypsum Recreation Center is a great model for Mountain Recreation to emulate.
“That facility is way bigger than a community of that size (in 2006) would normally have,” he noted. But with financial support from the town of Gypsum, amenities were expanded and for the last 15 years, the facility has been a community center for the town’s burgeoning population.
“The Gypsum Recreation Center has made life richer in that community,” McCormack said.
For the proposed capital program, major renovations have been planned for Edwards, Eagle, and Gypsum. Mountain Recreation said all three sites would have equal foundation amenities such as fitness centers, class studios, gymnasiums, sports courts, locker rooms and community rooms for behavioral health programs. The plan calls for the introduction of a district-wide facility pass so patrons can visit any of the sites in the valley.
Asked and answered
Mountain Recreation began surveying its voters three years ago and from that data, the district developed its capital program for “today, tomorrow, and for the next 40 years.”
“Among the top amenities requested by our community were a new fitness center and class studios in Edwards, a new larger outdoor pool, trailhead improvements, and a new fitness center in Eagle, and a new bumped out two-story fitness center and a gymnasium in Gypsum,” the Mountain Recreation announcement stated.
A November 2021 ballot question to support the All Access Rec capital program would seek a property tax increase to finance the improvements.
“This project is estimated to cost about $47 per year for every $100,000 of home value in the district, based on spring 2021 market conditions,” the Mountain Recreation announcement said. “The last time such a move was made by the district came almost 20 years ago and Mountain Rec paid off the last debt 10 years early.”
Getting the word out
As the Mountain Recreation board members reviewed the results of their survey efforts, they found out they have some explaining to do.
“In the first round of surveys, 50% of the respondents hadn’t heard about our plans. We have an awareness campaign ahead, for sure,” McCormack said. “We can’t promote, we can only educate and that’s an accurate description of what we plan to do.”
The Mountain Recreation board and staff plan outreach efforts at major downvalley community events this summer including ShowDown Town in Eagle on Thursday, July 1, Gypsum Daze in Gypsum on Saturday, July 17, and the Outdoor Movie Series in Edwards on Thursday, Aug. 12. Additionally more than 30 Q&A events with Mountain Recreation staff are scheduled this summer.
Feedback from these efforts will determine if the election proceeds, McCormack said. “Our sense is the community is pretty excited about this,” he said. “People have a price objection, which we get. We are looking to lower that price.”
In the end, McCormack said the capital projects proposal reflects how the Mountain Recreation team has embraced the responsibilities of providing programs and facilities to promote the community’s health and wellbeing.
“We need to keep making things affordable and accessible. We like what this plan does to meet those goals,” McCormack concluded.
To view buildings renderings, see a full list of new amenities, learn about costs to in-district taxpayers, subscribe to receive email capital improvement updates and to submit feedback visit AllAccessRec.org or AllAccessRec.es in Spanish.