Loveland Bike Trail
 

LARIMER COUNTY OPEN LANDS ADVISORY BOARD MEETING

MINUTES

Thursday, March 25, 2004 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Loveland Library MP Room

 

The mission of the Larimer County Open Lands Program is to preserve and protect significant open space, natural areas, wildlife habitat, develop parks and trails for present and future generations.  These open lands provide opportunities for leisure, human renewal and protection of our natural and cultural resources.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 


Present:

Open Lands Board Members:

Bob Streeter

Mark DeGregorio

Jim White

Brian Hayes

Jean Carpenter

Lori Jeffrey-Clark

Sue Sparling

Nancy Wallace

Bob Streeter

Peter Kast

Wendell Amos

Eric Hamrick

 

Staff

Tom Bender

Kerri Rollins

Meegan Flenniken

Matt Kuehl

K-Lynn Cameron

Charlie Gindler

Travis Rollins

Gary Buffington

 

Absent: 

Duane Pond

 

 

Chair, Nancy Wallace called the meeting to order at 5:15 p.m.

 

The minutes of February 26, 2004 were approved as printed with a motion from Sue Sparling and seconded by Wendell Amos.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

 

INTRODUCTIONS – Mike Carroll - Weed District Manager, Travis Rollins - Ranger, Matt Kuehl - Ranger

 

INFORMATION ITEMS

·  Kerri Rollins selected as Larimer County Employee of the Month for February!!

·  Boards and Commissions Training for Open Lands Board members - most Board members attended, Kerri will send information to those that did not.

·  Prescribed burn on Hughey Open Space – was canceled again due to weather conditions and has been postponed indefinitely.

·  Public meeting hosted by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District scheduled for the landowners adjacent to the proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir site on April 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Parks and Open Lands Visitor Center.

·  Guided Hikes for April –enclosed in March packet

PRESENTATIONS

·  Larimer County Weed District – Mike Carroll, District Manager

The Larimer County Weed District has been in existence since 1959.  It was originally 3 districts funded through the general fund, that merged in to one.  Today, the Weed Control District is funded by a mill levy assessed landowners within the District boundaries. The District now operates on a budget funded by a mill levy in the range of .143 mills. The 2003 budget was $497,000.  The Weed District is basically a funding boundary where these funds can be spent to enforce the Weed Act of Colorado on County-owned property, including roadsides as well as through 1) Assisting landowners with any weed problems; 2) developing a vegetation management plan for their property; 3) identifying plants on their property; 4) making recommendations about the proper herbicide for the site; and 5) promoting an educational and informational program on vegetation management. 

 

The Weed District can also contract funded projects outside the funding boundary (Enterprise Fund partners).  For example, they currently manage 37,000 acres for the Division of Wildlife in Cherokee Park area and other State Wildlife Areas.  They also contract to control weeds on roadside right of ways for CDOT, USFS, BLM, State agencies, Town of Estes Park, and other agencies.  Funds generated from these outside contracts go the Enterprise Fund and are spent in that area only.  Conversely, funds generated from within the District are spent within the District. 

 

In 2003 the Weed District sent out 1,606 courtesy notices to landowners covering an approximate 40,000 parcel acres.  Only 13 of those required mitigation actions.   The Weed District has a strong belief in education.

 

Mike reviewed some of the species that are mandated for control including canada and musk thistle, yellow toad flax, dalmation toad flax, etc.  Mike uses chemical, biological, cultural (revegetation), preventative and mechanical methods of weed control.  They also do a lot of vegetation mapping and monitoring.  They have a cost share program within the district, a loan sprayer program, site visits, management planning and revegetation services (limited in scope).  Mike said they distribute biocontrol insects to treat leafy spurge to public and private landowners at no charge.

 

Mike answered some questions on how best to treat specific weeds, and referred to their website www.larimer.org/parks/weeds for more specific treatments.

 

·  Ranger Program – Travis Rollins and Matt Kuehl 

Travis handed out and reviewed a summary of 2003 occurrences on our Open Lands, including visitation, frequent comments from public, common patrol issues etc.  One pressing issue is capacity at the Devil's Backbone.  There are 35 parking spaces at the trailhead, but on weekends it is not uncommon for upwards of 60-70 cars to arrive at the same time.  Rangers often turn away the surplus vehicles when the open space is at capacity, referring them to other areas such as Ramsay-Shockey Open Space or Coyote Ridge Natural Area.  Nancy suggested a “full” sign at the entrance.  Nancy also asked about multi-use on the trail.   Travis estimated that 40% of users are hikers and 40% are bikers.  K-Lynn said we need to be concerned that there are not more bikers than hikers, as hikers can be intimidated.  Nancy suggested a log of incidences/observational data so when the management plan is up for review these observations can be considered.

Travis also discussed how the new entrance gate is working, how the rangers use authority of the resource based education to explain why we have certain regulations such as not allowing general access at night, keeping dogs on leash, etc.  He emphasized that guided night hikes are offered through the Education Program.  Bob commented that he thought the way things are being done now is working well, particularly the resource based education of visitors.

 

Travis and Matt also discussed other open space areas they patrol, including the Ramsay-Shockey Open Space.  One on-going issue they face is neighborhood access and enforcing permit use.  Nancy suggested a community permit to get the buy-in from thee neighbors as an alternative.  Mark suggested working with the homeowners association (HOA) and have them pay permit fees through their HOA fees, or to host a community volunteer day and receive a free permit for volunteering.

 

Travis went on to discuss particular signs at our open space areas, and passed around some signs for the Board to see.  He distributed and reviewed his "2003 Raptor Monitoring Report" and answered many questions about nesting activities on various open spaces.

 

Discussion Items

§  Proposed User Fee Policy Schedule – K-Lynn introduced the discussion by presenting a timeline for receiving public discussion on a proposed user fee discussion.  The first Open Lands Advisory Board (OLAB) meeting to introduce and discuss this proposed policy will be at the April 22nd Board meeting.  Public comment will be heard on 5/13 in Loveland's Pulliam Building and on 5/19 at the Fort Collins Senior Center.  Both of these meetings will be held from 6:30 - 8:30pm.  The Board will review the public comments at the May 27th Board meeting and refine policy discussions.  The Board will make a final user fee policy recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) at the June 24th OLAB meeting.  Staff will keep the BOCC updated throughout the process. Jean confirmed that we will have a public comment section on our website.  Nancy suggested we review past OLAB discussions on this topic in the April packet/meeting.

 

§  Open Lands Board Membership and Recruitment Applications – K-Lynn said there are 3 OLAB members up for reappointment, not including Nancy and Wendell's second terms that will be over in June.  Nancy and Wendell cannot be reappointed as two consecutive terms is the maximum allowed.  Sue asked if someone can go beyond their 2 term limit, and Tom Bender indicated that in some extenuating circumstances they can and/or if no one else applies for the position.  Brian, Duane & Mark are finishing their first terms.  The BOCC will make the decision to reappoint these members if they are so interested.  K-Lynn encouraged the Board to suggest persons to apply, particularly for those interests that we will be losing in Nancy (agricultural background) and Wendell (Estes Park interest). 

§  Pleasant Valley Trail (PVT) update – Charlie reviewed the PVT project scope.  There is 1100 ft of trail easement through a private development proposal that has not yet been approved.  If any kind of development is approved for the property the landowner will be required to grant the trail easement, and is willing to do so.  Until a proposal is approved, we cannot move forward with building this portion of the trail. County Engineering is willing to allow the connection to go through the Borrow Ditch as a temporary condition.

 

§  Board participation – Nancy said she has noted that there has been less Board participation in discussions and that the Board seems to be becoming more of a "rubber stamp" Board.  She wondered if anyone else felt the same.  Jim said he felt during the first portion of his term he felt he had a lot to learn.  He suggested staff should present the pros and cons of an issue to improve the discussion.  Sue asked if a Board member had an interest in a particular staff endeavor that they could feel welcome to be involved at that level, ie agriculture.  Nancy said that she would like to have more involvement on management plans including an itemized list of issues that they could comment on, and also be involved in a field trip to present these issues. Bob said that there is always a danger of Board members getting in the way of the professional staff, and thought that the Board should be more involved at the policy level.  He feels staff has always welcomed input, but input should stay at policy level.  Nancy feels that as the Board moves to deliberating more management issues (versus acquisition issues) they need to become more educated in making those decisions.  She would like to see more Board feedback and discussion on how an open space is managed, rather than just reading and approving a management plan.  Peter agreed with Nancy and thought it would be helpful if the Board could have a list of decisions that need to be made on each management plan, ie. what kind of access, what does staff propose and do we agree with that, is there a legitimate reason for this decision, etc.  K-Lynn confirmed that staff would really like to see as much involvement with management issues as we do in the acquisition field trips, etc  Eric would like to see an access analyses for each property before we acquire it.  In defense of the existing acquisition process, Nancy pointed out that we already know if the property will have access before we buy it.  The Board will be involved with the policy choice of what the access is going to look like as well as the development of the management plan.  Sue said more information on the management plan helps her defend to the public what will happen to this land, and OLAB members should feel informed enough to represent the public.  Brian asked if the Board could be involved in staff meetings where there is specifically a discussion about management issues on a property.  For example, Loveland, Fort Collins and the County meeting in regards to the revised Devil's Backbone management plan.  K-Lynn said definitely, and staff can provide field trips to give an on the ground sense.  Jean said she is willing to commit extra time, but needs advance notice.  She added that Board members should offer which topics interest them most so staff would know who will be more responsive to those particular interests or open space properties.  Peter said he thinks it will improve the process if the Board has input, an example being capacity issues at the Devil's Backbone.  KL said the afternoon of 4/15 or 4/16 is available to tackle the Devil's backbone to Horsetooth area for access issues.  Meegan will send out an email with field trip times.  Jim said he would like an email on critical issues or discussions that he should be thinking about or researching before a decision needs to be made or discussion had at a Board meeting.

 

§  Coverage of the Parks & Open Lands Department in the Fort Collins Weekly -

Gary recognized that Board representatives get a lot of questions and he will try to answer all questions without violating personnel confidentiality.  He handed out a summary of recent issues including the Carter Lake Marina and accusations of heavy-handed rangers. 

 

Jim asked when the next public meeting would be for the Carter Lake Sailing Club issue. Gary said the 3rd public meeting for the year will be on 4/8 at the Fort Collins Courthouse in the Carter Lake Room at 6:30pm.  Mark confirmed that Don Waldburger owns the facilities and slips, and operates them on Bureau of Reclamation lands.  Gary said the County will continue to work with Don and the Sailing Club to develop an ownership and management plan that works for everyone.  Jean asked if our department will set a precedent regarding a county owned marina.  Gary indicated the county has not owned a marina before, however it is happening in several State Parks as well as the Estes Recreation and Park District.  Gary added that as the Parks Program is financially self sufficient, there will be no profit from this enterprise.  All money earned from the marina would go back into the program.

 

Nancy drew Gary’s attention to the Fort Collins Weekly article that quoted Gary as supporting more rigorous law enforcement.  She is concerned in general about rangers giving tickets on the roadways as well as other enforcement issues sited.  Gary says it is all about training, then highlighted his Visitors Services program and how full time rangers should be trained.  The Department has a mixture of POST certified and uncertified rangers.  Nancy asked if promotion is determined by being POST certified.  Gary said no, an applicant could qualify to apply for the Fossil Creek manager position without being POST certified as he does not see this position as requiring it.  Gary noted that USFS and State Parks require all of their rangers to be POST certified.  Gary said rangers are not cops and part of his training program is to debrief police officers and teach them more about education.  He said he would fire a seasonal employee if they were too heavy handed.  Mark said that people are not used to the professionalism of the ranger corps.  People bring big city problems to the parks and often they need professionally trained enforcement employees to intervene.  Jim said he would need a lot of data to support firearms, saying it is a giant leap to go to firearms in circumstances where they are not necessary or warranted.  He is concerned and would like more data to be able to support that notion.  Sue shared a discussion with her neighbor who is an avid boater.  His comments were that college-type parties are fewer at the campgrounds, but initial contacts between visitors and rangers are hostile.  Boat searches, non-welcoming information signs and behaviors displayed by rangers in campgrounds needs to improve.  Training should devote as much time to communication skills if the Department expects visitors to pay to be there.  Gary talked about the camphost and boat safety (required by State) programs.  Bob asked what it costs to pay a POST certified person vs. a non certified ranger with the same experience.  Bob is aware it is costly to become POST certified, especially for a person who only does 20% enforcement and 80% natural resource education.  He asked when it becomes a policy question of cost benefit.  Gary said that POST certified rangers are paid one step below a deputy.   Deputies get paid a lot more because they do 80% enforcement.  Gary is looking for a mix of POST certified and non POST certified employees in the Department.  Nancy wants to be sure these issues continue to be balanced and it is important to keep discussing them.  Bob says he would like to see as much training time on verbal judo and communication and education skills as on enforcement.  Brian said response time to an incident can be critical and he supports having some staff who can deal with criminal issues as they arise, without having to wait for a deputy to arrive.  Gary said he will continue to talk more about these issues with the Board in the future

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION: No Executive Session was called.

 

The meeting was adjourned by a motion from Wendell.  The motion was seconded by Sue and carried unanimously.  The meeting was adjourned at 8:40.

 

Background Image: Loveland Bike Trail by Sharon Veit. All rights reserved.