by John Kiljan
Yes, it’s true! A much sought-after public swimming pool for central Arvada is in the works. Both the City of Arvada and the Apex Park & Recreation District are looking for community input on what features the pool and adjoining recreation center should have. Apex plans to put the new center – along with five other city-wide recreation projects – on the ballot for a vote in May. Ballots should be arriving for all voters living in the recreation district (which includes most of the City of Arvada) in only three months’ time.
In the meantime, should the bond measure pass, both public agencies want to know what features you most want to see in the new center which is planned for Fitzmorris Park right next to the elementary school.
There are four reasons for locating a recreation facility at Fitzmorris: The first is that it is close to the former site of the popular Fisher Pool (aka, the North Jeffco Pool) that was closed down by the recreation district nearly a decade ago. That’s where the demand for a new pool seems to be the highest. The second is that Fitzmorris already has safe kid-friendly connections to the adjacent neighborhoods and to the Ralston Creek Trail which is well used by adults, kids, cyclists and pedestrians living both east and west of the facility. The bike-friendly trail runs beside the creek through much of Arvada. Fitzmorris lies less than three blocks north of Ralston Cove Park on this trail.
The third is that pool and recreation facility users can share the school’s parking lot in the summer when it is mostly unused. And finally, both the Jefferson Public School District and the City of Arvada are willing to provide the land needed for its construction without cost to the recreation district. I can think of many other locations for this facility, but each has its own development problem and this is just about the only underused public land left available in the area for this kind of project.
And there is even more going on at this open house. Your input is also needed for park and school ground improvements near the center. As a part of the proposal for the center, the City of Arvada would like to upgrade the Fitzmorris Park’s facilities – particularly the park’s walkways – and to make other improvements to the rundown baseball field on the east side of Fitzmorris Elementary School.
So what features should be included in the pool, the recreation rooms, the park and the school yard? That’s why this meeting is important. This is your chance to find out what is being considered now and to voice your views on what could be happening at this site.
The open house will be held on Tuesday, January 26th at the Fitzmorris Elementary School gymnasium at 6250 Independence Street, between 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm. There may be a short introductory talk shortly after 6:30 pm, but come as you are (and bring the kids) at any time during that period. If you can’t make the open house, look at the WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE section below for a place to send your comments via email.
Does this mean we can have anything most of us ask for? That would be nice. But no we can’t. The project is constrained by its overall $4.8 million budget. With the City’s cash contribution and the available funding from Apex’s bond renewal, that’s all that can be allocated to the center. If we say we want something such as more of a workout room, we will probably get a smaller pool – or vice versa.
Well, I shouldn’t say there is absolutely no way to get more funding, but a bigger budget is definitely not what’s in the cards for this May. Apex could increase its bond request on the May ballot, but that would mean an INCREASE in the property taxes assessed by Apex, and that could easily cause the bond proposal to fail. Right now, Apex is only planning to ask for a renewal of its existing bonds WITHOUT any increase in existing taxes.
The City of Arvada could contribute even more than the $3.1 million it is now planning to put into this project as a part of its partnership with Apex. But that already amounts to 2/3rds of the cost of the project’s total cost – not counting the value of the donated land. And for the City to increase its contribution would likely mean some cutbacks in other City park services, or even in other City-provided services such as street maintenance.
And why not just a pool? Isn’t that what most people were asking for in the recreation survey done in 2013? Well, yes it was, but that’s not how things work. Although indoor or outdoor pools were the most popular choices when the City/CLRC recreation survey was taken that spring, other important recreation needs were identified as well. On the top of the list of other recreational needs were a workout facility and senior-oriented recreation. But it is more than just the survey results. An outdoor pool (which is the least expensive kind to build) can only operate for a few months of the year in the summer. But providing recreational opportunities for both adults and youngsters is a year-round community need.
And please don’t think Apex is not carrying its share with 2/3rds of the construction costs being picked up by the City. Small outdoor pools are not very expensive to build, but they can be expensive to run. Apex will probably be suffering an annual operating loss keeping this facility going in the future. Even with the user fees to swim there, the pool is not likely to pay for its own operational expenses and annual upkeep. The most practical way to offset that operational loss is with an added recreational facility that will run year-round and should pay its own way in user fees. Not only will that be where a good part of your Apex property tax money be going, but It will also contribute to at least some of the other recreational needs identified in the 2013 recreation survey.
In case you are wondering, of course, an indoor pool can be operated year-round. However, they are a lot more expensive to build and maintain. They require special ventilation, corrosion-resistant roofing and structural supports, and they cost more to operate, keep heated, and to fix major maintenance problems that come up as the pool building ages. And they are just not as much fun in the summer.
The indoor Meyers Pool near 80th and Carr has suffered major structural damage from decades of dampness and chlorine fumes that may end up closing that pool in the coming decade. Some are estimating as much as $25 million will be needed to rebuild that facility a decade from now.
There’s more. 24 hour fitness had been hoped to build an adults-only fitness center at the site of the old Safeway building three blocks away from Fitzmorris. That deal seems to have collapsed about a month ago, and it now seems unlikely that there will be a commercial fitness center operating at the site of the old Safeway. This increases the potential demand for a workout facility at Fitzmorris. Moreover, there is a risk that if Apex does not build a large enough recreation center on the Fitzmorris site to attract users during the colder months, the recreation district will decide to close it down in the winter for lack of use. That’s not a good thing.
All of this leads to the likelihood that a balanced facility that meets the needs of all its potential users is going to be the most viable option for Apex in this bond proposal.
So what’s next? The City and Apex are tentatively planning to come back with a more definite design proposal – based upon what they hear from potential users on January 26th – for further public comment sometime in February. When the date for that second public meeting is set, you will find the information on our RalstonCommunity.org web page, as well as on the City’s and Apex’s own websites.
And here’s an important note: As nice as all these sketches and drawings look, they are just early concepts provided by Apex’s design consultant on pretty short notice. They are very likely to change based upon public input received at this meeting and the need to keep within the project’s overall budget.
So what kinds of comments are the City and Apex looking for in this meeting? The short answer is what is the most useful to you and your family and what you are most likely to use in the park, the rec facility, pool, and in the school playground. As a way of helping, here are the comments I plan to make myself. These are just examples. What is more important is what the younger families with children want to see in the center as their children grow up in this neighborhood, and for seniors who have difficulty travelling to recreation facilities farther away. Please feel free to disagree with me if I’ve got something wrong – I promise won’t be offended.
* * *
Dear City of Arvada and the Apex Parks & Recreation District,
Thank you for what you are doing! These are my own thoughts on what should be included as design elements in the Fitzmorris pool and recreation center, and in the adjacent park:
- Build a pool with a deep end. Apex itself and its first pool in Ralston Central Park were created back in the 1950s when the city had no pools and someone who hadn’t learned to swim drowned. The need to learn to survive in deep water is still there. A pool where kids can safely learn to tread deep water and swim is the biggest safety benefit this pool can offer to the families that will be using it.
- Put in at least one diving board for the pool. Again, it’s for the kids. A diving board is not only fun, but it teaches growing kids how to develop confidence in their own abilities.
- Not so much emphasis on swimming lanes, please. The Wheat Ridge pools and the Apex Center on 72nd will always have better facilities for those who enjoy getting exercise by doing laps, even if they have to drive to get to them.
- Please design the pool and the recreation building with the thought that either may be expanded in the future. No one knows how popular this facility will be – the pool in particular. The Fisher Pool always seemed pretty crowded to me. If the facility is ‘loved to death’ and always overcrowded, then there will be a demand to make it bigger in the future. We should plan for that possible expansion when designing it now.
- Put in a small concession stand for the pool users – or at least some vending machines with some pool-safe foods and drinks. Parents may be dropping their kids off for a day of swimming fun and it will be three blocks to the nearest retail outlets where they can get a small sandwich or a snack.
- Make the restrooms available to all the adjacent park users year-round – whether they are using the pool or rec facility or not. This will go a long way toward encouraging people to make the best use of Fitzmorris Park. It will also take some of the pressure off the nearby Ralston Central Park where the open restroom is a blessing to parents with small children who don’t want to use a park port-a-potty.
- Use the rec center’s water tap to put in a park drinking fountain. Picnicking families with kids with ketchup-sticky hands will thank you for years to come.
- Put a small covered pavilion in Fitzmorris Park and allow reservations for things like birthday and graduation parties. In Ralston Central Park, I see people squabbling over picnic table or hauling in their own tables and tents. Clearly the demand is for more picnicking facilities, and Fitzmorris Park can easily meet some of that need.
- If the demand is indeed there in the park, it makes sense to do a layout that plans for a place to add more picnic tables in the future if needed.
- Please put a weatherproof 15-amp GFI-protected electrical outlet in the pavilion with a re-settable circuit breaker. There are many good uses that could be put to.
- The park could use more walkways, particularly to the part that is cut off by the canal on the north side.
- The park could also use a small playground facility like some of the ones we have at Ralston Cove Park nearby.
- For the schoolground improvements, my first thoughts are to ask the kids at Fitzmorris and their parents what they want to see there. My hope for a decent baseball diamond may not be what the students themselves would most likely want to see.
- Think of senior citizens as well when designing the workout/aerobics part of the rec center. We are starting to get a lot of young families moving back into the area looking for starter homes, but there are still plenty of seniors who might not want to drive to a place to get a little exercise.
- Is there a way to cover the pool after the summer season to use it as a pickleball court? Could we design it to accommodate that use if that senior-oriented sport takes off locally?
- A small basketball court? There was one in Ralston Central Park that was used pretty often, but it was taken out when the park was rebuilt. We are only talking about a small court where kids can shoot some hoops with their moms and dads – just like they did at RCP. That empty corner in Ralston Cove Park where Brooks Drive takes a sharp turn at Holland might be as good a place as well.
John Kiljan, a local resident
* * *
I hope we will see every interested resident showing up at this open house a week from today.
WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
If you can’t make the public input meeting on the 26th, you can still comment on the proposal, by calling the City of Arvada’s Parks, Golf and Hospitality Department at 720-898-7400. You can also email your thoughts by emailing or writing to the parks department’s representative for this proposal. Sarah Washburn, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are not already on it, you can also add your name to the CLRC’s own recreation e-mailing list that was set up in 2013 survey. You can do that in two ways: the first is by signing up on the CLRC sign-up sheets at the meeting on the 26th, or you can just email the CLRC secretary at email@example.com (that’s me) and ask to be added to our iContact recreation mailing list. But watch out! We may ask you to put up a yard sign if you support the final design concept at Fitzmorris.
You can read all of our articles on our main website 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
January 19, 2016