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Parks maintenance seen as a top priority

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An update on the master plan being developed for the city's parks, trails, recreation and open space was provided to members of Delta City Council and a citizens' advisory group last week.

The city contracted with the Fort Collins firm of Logan Simpson to develop the plan with input from a community survey, public visioning sessions, focus groups and city staff.

Throughout the public process, residents of the city showed a great appreciation and general satisfaction with parks, recreation, open space and trail facilities. Nearly 70 percent of the community agrees that Delta provides a quality park system.

While there's been some "dreaming" of future amenities, most citizens recognize the need for maintenance and improvements of current facilities. Logan Simpson observed that improvements to existing parks are valued three to one over building new parks.

And that's without taking any costs into consideration. A long list of potential projects for parks throughout the city adds up to a staggering $26 million, with a large percentage going to develop Cottonwood and Riverbend.

Analysis reveals that the city needs additional funding just to maintain the existing system over the next five years. The city budgets $100,000 in Conservation Trust Funds for park maintenance annually. Parks staff and equipment are stretched so thin, Logan Simpson estimates another $100,000 is needed every year.

With prioritization a must, Logan Simpson returned to the survey, where natural surface trails, playgrounds, paved trails, an outdoor play area and bicycle connections were valued most highly. "Only you guys can figure out allocation of resources," Jana McKenzie, a principal member of the Logan Simpson team, told council members.

Additional funding could be generated through a sales tax increase -- not a popular

idea with the council -- or from grants. But grants require matching funds, and smaller grants sometimes aren't worth the staff time needed to complete applications.

McKenzie suggested a regional approach that possibly dovetails with the county's trails master plan, also in progress. She also spoke to the need to spread amenities throughout the city, with the goal of increasing walkability to parks in every neighborhood. "Not everything should be in Confluence Park," she said.

One of the most pressing issues is the tennis courts at Cleland Park, which have been closed to the public due to their poor condition. Seepage from Garnet Mesa is impacting the soil beneath the tennis courts, as well as the Garnet Mesa trail system and irrigation ditch. Parks director Tony Bohling said the ditch is running at capacity. "It requires constant monitoring this time of year," he noted. Replacement of the restrooms at Cleland Park is also considered a priority.

Identifying those priorities is the goal of the planning process. With a vision in place, the city can begin to move forward with some of the ideas outlined in the master plan, council member Ron Austin noted.

Bill Heddles Recreation Center and Confluence Park were both once just dreams, but there were some real needs, as well, council member Gerald Roberts recalled. The park is built on the site of the city's old sewer lagoons, abandoned when the city was required to build a wastewater treatment plant. And the deteriorating condition of the Cleland Park pool spurred the movement for a recreation center.

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