Is it time for a county recreation levy?
Recreation. It’s really what we’re all about. Whether it’s skiing, hiking, fishing, dancing, soccer, softball, rafting, sightseeing or any of the other numerous things we do to play, Eagle County likes to have fun.
We sometimes refer to recreation as tourism. Whatever you call it, playing is the basis of our economy and why we are here. Recreation should not be only for our visitors, it should also enrich our lives. But how well do we serve our residents?
There are three recreation districts in Eagle County. They are Vail Recreation District (VRD), Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District (WECMRD) and Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District (in El Jebel).
In addition to these special recreation districts, other entities like the town of Avon, Eagle-Vail and Berry Creek Metro District also have recreation efforts.
All of these entities do a great job of serving their citizens on an individual basis. There are even some good cooperative efforts to cross boundaries, but yet the lines still exist. Are we as efficient and effective as we can be or is there a better way to serve ourselves?
A number of people have talked about consolidation, but those discussions end with no results. Maybe it’s time to finally take action. If we focus on how we can best serve all of our citizens and not just separate communities, we could actually expand services and save money at the same time.
Some examples of disjointed efforts versus some successes will serve to illustrate why an Eagle Valley-wide effort makes sense.
On the success side, we will have a new valley wide arrangement this year with soccer and softball. This agreement among WECMRD, Vail Valley Soccer Club and VRD represents what could lead to a seamless registration, management and coaching effort. No child should be stigmatized or be financially penalized because they happen to live in another district. The various districts have to annually renew their agreements that attempt to resolve this ongoing issue on a temporary basis.
On the “what are they thinking” side of the issue, there needs to be some common sense applied. When Vail gymnastics had to leave their facility and move temporarily to Avon, the number of little gymnasts enrolled in programs reportedly went from about 100 kids to over 300! Why would the town want to move the program back to Vail? The children are centered downvalley.
Vail Junior Hockey is another example. Look at the roster and see where the kids live who are in the program. About 10 percent of the skaters live in Vail, whereas the majority live in the greater Edwards area. Why don’t we do a reality check and locate new facilities that are needed where they are most accessible to the participants? Unfortunately, current organization makes it inconvenient for the moms and dads, adds more miles on the car, and creates greater car pollution in the valley trying to maintain an impractical status quo.
We must look into the future. How are we preparing to serve the growing population of senior citizens? AARP sent me my registration form last summer. We need to begin planning and building facilities that will serve a variety of generations.
Let’s consider a countywide property assessment for recreation. We could establish a representative board of directors that would fairly budget dollars so that everyone will get their fair share and we can develop better recreational facilities throughout Eagle County.
We have more than enough children, senior citizens, young and middle-aged athletes and visitors to fill these centers and these populations are growing. Summit County fills two recreation centers with a smaller population base.
The Gypsum fire chief, Dave Vroman, gave me some sage advice recently that is appropriate to this endeavor. He said that efforts of this type would have to be “non-threatening and equitable” for all involved. I’m sure that we could achieve this goal if we have the desire.
Please let me and your friends and neighbors know what you think. Who knows, it might even be fun.
Tom Stone is an Eagle County commissioner.