by John Kiljan
Dear CLRC members and friends,
“. . . In addition to those five things, we consistently heard – much! – really loud! But we consistently heard people stand up and [say], ‘Listen and pay attention to the idea of community recreation centers.’ As opposed to regional centers, like the Apex Center is now, which generate revenue and pay for themselves or even make money. It seems that what we are hearing from both the different parts of the community are this idea of smaller, neighborhood rec centers. Which, as we’ve talked about, are not profit centers.”
Those were Director Jeff Glenn’s opening remarks at a joint Arvada City Council/Apex Board of Directors’ meeting held May 12, 2015 to discuss the results of Apex’s last public input meeting on its upcoming bond renewal. That March public input meeting drew 150 participants according to Director Glenn, who is also the President of the Apex Board.
The director’s comments marked a sea change in the board’s vision for the future of recreation in Arvada. It is a change that can only help the more underserved areas of south and southeast Arvada, and it is a change that may finally bring about a restoration of the Fisher Pool that used to be located in Arvada’s Central Park. This article contains the latest news on how that change is unfolding.
The need for local community recreation dominated the discussion during the remainder of the hour-and-a-quarter meeting between the two government entities. Both the City of Arvada and the Apex Park & Recreation District jointly provide for Arvada’s many public parks and recreation facilities.
The City of Arvada has already set aside $3.1 million in its budget to build a replacement pool/rec center for the community pool closed by Apex at Ralston Central Park eight years ago. But that’s only about half of what’s needed to build a replacement for the Fisher Pool.
During the meeting discussion, City Manager Mark Deven asked the group to consider using that set-aside money to instead set up an operational trust fund for local community recreational facilities that Apex might have to operate at a loss – but only if Apex would agree to build the facilities in the first place. The Mayor liked that idea as well, and said that the voters were more likely to support an Apex bond proposal if it were a collaborative partnership between Apex and the City.
At that meeting, the City said it was already looking at the possibility of locating a neighborhood pool at the Fitzmorris elementary school and the adjacent City park located at 62st Avenue and Independence. Apex Director Jim Whitfield thought that Fitzmorris would work as a site, but he also thought Wolff Park would be more centrally located.
But Mr Whitfield also asked why the south and southeast parts of the city should be treated differently than other parts of the city. “What makes this [neighborhood] more special than any other part of the city?” he asked. District 3 Councilor John Marriott answered that it was simply because these are areas that are underserved.
Overall, there was good support from Councilor Marriot, Councilor Dyer and the Mayor for including neighborhood recreational facilities in a bond proposal, with Mayor Williams saying we need a “present under the tree for everybody” in the bond proposal.
Councilor Bob Dyer also floated the idea of a circulator shuttle to help kids in the southeast part of the city to reach the available recreational facilities farther west and north. Councilor McGoff also liked that idea, but his concern was as much for seniors living on the east side of Kipling. He cited demographics that say the senior population is growing most rapidly in east Arvada. Councilors Fifer and Allard were not able attend this meeting.
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Only two members of the public attended the May 12th joint meeting, but about seven members of the public showed up at a follow-on workshop held on May 21st. This workshop was held by Apex after its regular business meeting that evening, and the Arvada City Council did not attend. Apex’s workshop was held to decide what the district should do next to keep on a schedule to put a bond renewal issue on the ballot in May of 2016. Apex hopes to decide by September what it wants to include in a bond renewal proposal and to begin promoting the concept shortly afterward.
At this follow-on Apex workshop, Mike Miles, Apex’s Executive Director, asked the members of the board to sort through a pile of seven project categories, and for each director to come up with his or her own package totaling no more than $25 million worth of project proposals. The cost estimates were very rough and most had several cost options depending upon the scale of the projects. Mr Miles placed the $25 million limit on the total, because that is how much money would be available without raising the mill levy rate the district now has on property taxes.
Those project groups were, in no particular order:
tennis courts – $1.1M, $4.0M, $6.5M, $7.7M and $10.3M options (from just surface repair to 6 indoor courts and 6 outdoor courts);
a new pool/club house at Fitzmorris – $3.2M to $4.0M, with costs based on Candelas’ HOA costs;
Secrest upgrades – expanded gym for $5.5M to $6.9M but with increased operating deficits, with an option for a senior-oriented hot therapy pool for another $1.5M, but the old pool may need a replacement (or major repair) in ten years or so;
Apex center – $1.5M for a new outdoor splash pad, indoor pool improvements, clubhouse renovation;
Long Lakes Ranch – $4.5M for new ball fields, lighting, restrooms, concessions, new multi-sport turf fields, parking, sidewalks; and,
Lutz sports complex – $4.3M for a package that includes reconfiguring the ball fields and adding restrooms and concessions.
When the straw poll was complete, four out of the five directors supported building a Fisher Pool replacement at, or near, the Fitzmorris elementary school, and none fully supported a recreational facility for the Columbine neighborhood. The tennis, Lutz, Secrest, Long Lakes and Apex projects were supported by all the directors at some level. Several directors supported adding a hot-water therapy pool to Secrest as well.
When putting together their $25 million priority list, only Director Humrich did not include a community pool at Fitzmorris. And only Director Whitfield supported setting aside some money ($1.8 million) to support a partnership with the City of Arvada to provide a facility for Columbine.
But there was also sympathy from some of the board members when turning down Columbine. The primary concern expressed was that it did not look like there was available space in the neighborhood, and that the City might, or should, be able to provide more support for that area.
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And the City might well do that. A few days after this workshop meeting, I talked briefly with Gordon Reusink, who is the City of Arvada’s parks director. He told me that the City has launched a complete review and revision of its Parks Master Plan and that it will include a hard look at the needs of the Columbine neighborhood south of Grandview and east of the Wadsworth Bypass.
The Plan is important. It will look at all the City’s park facilities with an eye to a full build-out of the City to a population of 150,000. The current population of Arvada is about 110,000 and limited land and water availability may not allow much further growth. The City hopes to complete the Parks Master Plan by the end of the year, and it will start setting up meetings to get public input on Arvada’s parks needs, probably sometime this summer.
But back to Fitzmorris. Already seeing Fitzmorris as a viable site for locating a community pool, the City has taken the initiative to begin exploratory talks with Jefferson County schools about locating one there. So far, those discussions are only at the staff-to-staff level, but they seem promising.
Apparently, the City goes a long way to coordinate its park developments with the adjacent schools. Mr Reusink can now cite 29 locations where the City and Jeffco schools have set up partnerships to coordinate their adjacent school and park developments.
Wolff Park on Ralston Road was the last such partnership. The City built and maintains Wolff Park, but the school owns the land it sits on. It’s all done under a formal intergovernmental agreement (IGA). The City seems to do this kind of exploratory planning well in advance. There is another joint project being discussed for a park near a new Leyden Rock school that has not yet even been funded.
At some point the staffs of the Arvada City Manager’s Office, Apex and Jefferson County schools will come together to discuss what might be possible at the Fitzmorris site. But so far, no meeting has been scheduled. And after that, it looks like the City Council and the Apex Board of Directors may get together one more time before Apex makes a decision as to what to put on the ballot next year.
Not familiar with the area? To see a short video pan of the proposed Fitzmorris site for the pool/recreation facility, try clicking on this link:
You don’t have to sign up for Dropbox to see the one-minute video.
SO IS THIS WHERE IT WILL HAPPEN FOR SURE?
By no means. By my own count, ten different sites, including this one, have been discussed as a location for a replacement Fisher Pool over the years. They stretch from the Triangle shopping center through Wolff Park to Memorial Park and to the City Hall campus itself. Each potential site has its own benefits, problems and expenses associated with its development. If an agreement cannot be reached among the school, Apex and the City to locate at Fitzmorris, there are still other possibilities for central Arvada to once again have a decent public pool and recreational facility.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
Your neighborhood association, the CLRC, has covered the need for local recreation and the need for a community pool since it was founded in 2010. The most recent CLRC article covering the public comments made about local recreation needs during the March 26th public input meeting can found at this link:
A copy of the audio recordings for the May 12th and May 21st meetings are available upon request.
The Citizens for a Livable Ralston Community is an independent neighborhood association representing the neighborhoods adjacent to Ralston Road from the Wadsworth Bypass to the Kipling Parkway.
Our main website is at http://www.RalstonCommunity.org or you can read even more posts on our Facebook page at “CLRC – Citizens for a Liveable Ralston Community”. You can write to us, call us or email us at
c/o John Kiljan, Secretary
6185 Field Street
Arvada, CO 80004
June 1, 2015