Rec districts could cross town boundaries
Claudia Arreola considers herself lucky to live in Avon. After all, when she works out at the Avon Recreation Center, she gets to pay the in-town rate.
Her friend, however, lives in Eagle and must pay more to use the recreation center’s facilities.
“I think it would be great if there was just one rate,” she said.
That’s just one possible benefit that prompted the Avon Recreation District to begin talking about consolidation with the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District – also known as WECMRD.
“We think we need a more cooperative recreation program across more than just the towns,” Avon Councilman Ron Wolfe said. “There is an opportunity for the Avon Recreation Center to be leveraged by and accessible to other residents of the county.”
Talks are still preliminary – feasibility studies and economic breakdowns still need to be done – but officials with WECMRD seem interested, too.
“Our board is open to the proposal,” said Steve Russell, WECMRD’s executive director. “It will take a lot of work to muddle through all the financial implications, but there is support for the whole idea of cooperating and more effectively using the public dollars.”
While the idea is little more than just that, some users at the Avon Recreation Center think it might be a good one. Especially if it benefits them.
“I think the less people in the gym, the better,” Frank Vilec said, while working out at the recreation center. “I would think if they did do it, they should use the money to build a basketball court.”
There are three separate recreation districts in the Eagle Valley: the Vail Recreation District, the Avon Recreation District and WECMRD, which includes part of Edwards, Wolcott, Eagle, Gypsum and Dotsero. All three have youth and adult programs, but Avon is the only one with a full-service public recreation center. The center has 300 to 500 users daily, many of whom live outside of the town limits.
Avon officials have always hoped to expand the recreation center, which was built in 1995 for $5.7 million. Expansion plans are still conceptual, but town officials have talked about adding a rock climbing wall, increasing the exercise space and adding basketball and racquetball courts.
However, the town still owes $2.8 million for the center, despite its heavy usage.
“Rec centers are not cheap,” Town Manager Larry Brooks said. “But they are a great quality of life feature.”
Collaborating with WECMRD, and thus having greater financial leverage, could make the expansion more likely to happen, Wolfe said.
The idea has already gotten some interest from the Berry Creek Metropolitan District. While Eagle County officials are considering building a recreation center in that area, metro board member Don Cohen wonders if those dollars would be better spent expanding the nearby Avon Recreation Center.
“As a district, we are eager and willing to support recreation,” he said. “We are hoping to see better program-sharing and even consolidation. It’s often confusing where those dollars should go. We sort of have competing entities.”
The metro district gave money to the Vail Recreation District last year since many of those residents’ children participate in Vail recreation programs. But, Cohen said, the board told VRD officials it would like to see more cooperation among the county’s recreation districts.
WECMRD already is committed to help the Gypsum Town Council with a recreation facility there. The Gypsum Town Council is conducting a feasibility study now.
Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.