Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

 

Thursday, April 24, 2008 – 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Bison Visitor Center

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:

Ben Manvel

Jean Carpenter

Bob Streeter

Nancy Wallace

Brian Hayes

Ted Swanson

Sue Sparling

Bill Pinkham

           

Staff

Lori Smith

K-Lynn Cameron

Dutch Fla Havhan

Windy Kelley

Gary Buffington

Charlie Johnson

Kerri Rollins

Jerry White

Jeffrey Boring

Meegan Flenniken

Travis Rollins

 

 

            Absent: 

Bill Newman

Jim White

Don Griffith

Peter Kast

 

Chair, Nancy Wallace called the meeting to order at 5:17 p.m.

 

Bob motioned to approve the March minutes. Sue seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

PUBLIC COMMENT

No public comment

 

INFORMATION ITEMS:

·  Update on Red Mountain Open Space. (See handout) Meegan noted the Location Extent Review was approved through the Planning Commission. The survey of the road and phase I trail construction are currently underway. The main update from last month is the construction of the trailhead and entry road are being postponed from this year and instead will be begin in January 2009, weather depending. She added that we have postponed construction of the base of operations building to see what type and level of use the property receives to determine the need. The known need is a place to store tools for on-site projects and we are looking into leasing a part of the buildings on the trade lands for this purpose. The opening date to coincide with the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area opening as agreed to with the City of Fort Collins is the first weekend in June 2009.

 

 Bob asked Meegan if the initial timeline for construction of both the trailhead and road work was scheduled for 2008 and if this is correct why the two projects have been pushed into next year. Meegan replied that prior to now, the trailhead site work, entry road and base of operations building construction were slated for 2008 and the finishing detail work at the trailhead was scheduled for 2009.

 

Bob requested clarification for why the projects are being delayed. Gary noted he wants to hold off on the project until 2009 to save interest dollars. He added the construction cost estimates for the construction work at RMOS are solid and the actual costs should be the same.

 

Bob added that costs generally increase when a project is spread out over a longer period of time. Gary said he can have Todd provide the needed information to show how the project delays will save money.

 

Bob asked if the delay of constructing the trailhead is associated with the present constraint on the Department’s budget. Gary responded no.

 

Meegan explained the initial projected development costs for RMOS were $1.5 million, which did not include the base of operations. The base of operations was requested by staff at the end of the management planning process, but the development budget originally set aside did not include this higher cost – once the trailhead, entry road, fencing and trails were allocated in the budget only $215,000 of the $1.5 million earmarked are available towards a building. Gary noted the cost alone for providing electricity to the base of operations at RMOS would be over $100,000. He added the Department decided to wait to see if a better location would become available or if this type of building would be needed in the future.

 

Bob suggested the use of solar energy for the base of operations at RMOS. Meegan replied we are looking into off-grid options, however the basic building cost is still very high and beyond the budget available despite the power options.  She added that a pre-fabricated structure was also considered which would require us to work with an architect to ensure the structure could fit the visual and character of the site.

 

K-Lynn added it is still unknown what the use will be of the open space. Staff has discussed holding-off on constructing the base of operations to see if use warrants a facility. Gary has discussed reallocating the $215,000 to the Acquisition Fund Balance.

 

 Gary said the budget will be discussed in May. (See Director’s Report for additional comments)

 

·  Update on Hermit Park Open Space (See handout.) Meegan noted that since early February, Chris Fleming (Hermit Park Manager) has taken on the role of the construction project manager. Connell will conduct the construction work at HPOS and the first projects are underway, including: 1) bringing the site’s primary road from Highway 36 to the Group Use Area to County Road Standard G; 2) construction of the parking lots at the Group Use Area and 3) constructing the modular office building at the entrance. She noted HPOS is still on track to open Memorial Day weekend. The Site Plan Review for the section of road between the Group Use Area and the future site for the Homestead Meadows trailhead and turn around will be submitted early May.

 

Meegan reviewed the budget changes – overall change is that the initial development budget for 2008 Hermit Park was $1.2 million and now has increased to $1.35 million as we are using dollars leftover from 2007 that were loaned to Hermit Park from both Lottery and Open Lands. Some items came in higher or lower with Connell’s bid and additional development projects added beyond requirements for opening to the public. Significant budget changes include: The modular building (up from $60,000 estimated to now $152,000); Main roads and entry area (estimated at $260,000 up now to $350,000); Group use parking (estimated at $325,000 down to $108,000); Camphost sites (doubled to $20,000); Addition of signs on Highway 36, ½ cost of entry sign not raised in auction; vault toilet at group use; computers and printers; and inclusion of the main road work from the group use and the turn around at Homestead Meadows.

 

We have budgeted $1.35 million and we are committed to staying within this existing budget, allowing us to meet all requirements to open the property to the public plus a lot of extras like a modular, outfitting the office, camphost sites, trails and the turn around.

 

Ben: The big item changes total an increase by $400,000 – that is a big difference. How did the savings come about? Meegan responded the original estimates from EDAW/Staff adjusted when we put it out to bid – the updated figures are those Connell came back with. We have reduced costs elsewhere (ex. not having to improve campground roads to standard G) to stay within the $1.35 million budgeted and not increasing the bottom line.

 

Bob noted at the last OLAB meeting the amount budgeted for Hermit Park was $1.2 million and now it’s up to $1.35 million – when and where did these increases take place? Meegan responded that while a number of estimated items were a wash with Connell’s bid increases and decreases the primary budget increases to account for the $150,000 since last meeting include: the modular building went up by $100,000 from what staff estimated (bids ranged from $112,000 - $232,000), but she has not seen the breakout of what is included in these bids as the site manager is working on them. Also there were the new items added to the budget including the computer/printers, signs on Highway 36 and on-site and vault toilet at the Group Use Area. The carry over from the Open Lands and Lottery loans to Hermit Park in 2007 that was not spent is where the additional $150,000 is coming from. Gary also noted the last line item, the turn around and road improvements beyond the Group Use Area were not in the last budget.

 

Bob expressed frustration with Hermit Park not being a turn key operation as it was presented to the Board at the time of acquisition. This has turned out to be a lot pricier than was presented. The Open Lands Board already has been approached to allocate dollars to Hermit Park for this first phase of development – every time I see something on Hermit Park, costs are increasing. I read the article about the Marina at Carter Lake – are we going to begin to see more overruns and money requests from Hermit Park? Are we going to be able to get the income that staff projected from fees – I would like to see the costs for management and anticipated revenues. I think we need a special session about Hermit Park and the financial situation. Gary agreed to address these questions next month.

 

Bob asked if decisions will already be made by next month. Nancy noted that we see these things in the paper and so we know there is a shortage of funds.  One thing is transparency and it is better to let us know what is going on up front, so we are not blinded by the amount of money being spent and hearing later we have to give up something. We should be part of making recommendations on how open space dollars are spent and know about all of the choices. As a board we need to be able to say we made “this” choice or “that” choice especially as we look into the future to extend the Open Space tax. We shouldn’t need to worry about the public perceptions and the possibility of them thinking OLAB mis-spent money. Bob added we can cut back on projects. We may not be able to do everything we want right now to the level we want to; the land is protected this is key. Ben noted during last month’s board meeting we discussed receiving monthly financial updates – I hope we will have these by next month. I really think having a bulleted, highlighted handout monthly showing where the figures are coming from and how dollars are being spent would be beneficial. Gary agreed to this. (See Director’s Report for additional comments)

 

·  Friends of Larimer County Parks and Open Lands raised $4,000 at their auction on April 5 to benefit Hermit Park. Jean added the Friend Program will be donating an additional $1,800 towards Hermit Park Open Space. The group’s next event is a work project on the 3rd of May at HPOS. REI provided funding for the Friends Group to purchase tools for the work project.

·  CCT Fellow interviews took place 4/14 with 4 very qualified applicants, and an offer was extended.

·  Education Program Coordinator position attracted 68 applications.  Interviews are on 4/30.

·  Dutch, our Volunteer Coordinator, will be ramping up the recruitment for interns through CSU.  There are already 3 interested in our summer internship (May-August).  Interviews are taking place.

·  The annual CSU Unity days took place on Saturday, April 12th at Eagle’s Ridge Conservation Easement. The group conducted erosion control and attracted 18 participants.

·  The annual “Every Drop Counts” event that Anheuser Bush sponsors is scheduled for April 26th. They will plant 550 shrubs and native seeds at Pleasant Valley Trail. Additionally, Anheuser Bush is donating nearly $5,000 for watering and maintenance.

·  The “Stewarding Private Properties: Resources for Landowners” seminar scheduled for April 16th for canceled due to low registration.

·  Two grants ($7,000 and $13,000) were received from the Colorado State Forest Service for forest management on Chimney Hollow Open Space.

·  Save the Date: The OLAB and PAB picnic is scheduled for Saturday, June 14th at Red Mountain Open Space. An invitation will be sent with more details in the coming weeks!

·  Trail Adoption groups will begin trail work in May and will continue through September. This year we have seven adoption groups, each will work three weekends during the designated season.

·  Parks and Open Lands events for May.  See handout.

·  The 9th of May is the application deadline for one general OLAB member opening.

·  Devil’s Backbone Open Space: A field trip will be scheduled soon to the DBB, featuring the newly designed and installed interpretive signs and highlighting the very successful restoration project underway in the Indian Creek valley.

·  The EIS for the NISP Project (Glade Reservoir) is scheduled to be released on April 30. The BCC will host an informational presentation by the Army Corp of Engineers at 7 pm, Monday May 5. Jeffrey will work with the Board’s subcommittee to review the EIS.(See Board Comments)

 

PRESENTATIONS:

  • Update on Open Lands in the Blue Mountain District. (See handout.) Travis Rollins, Park Manager

Travis provided an overview of updates regarding open space properties in the Blue Mountain District. He noted Devil’s Backbone Open Space continues to be a very popular recreational area. A visitor count at DBB is scheduled for this year, the last count in 2005 recorded 70,000 visitors. The trailhead redesign at DBB was a success, the new layout increased parking lot capacity and provides safer access to and from the parking area. Plans to construct the outdoor classroom the Hequist, Altmix and Simmons family is donating are still moving forward. He noted primary management issues at the DBB are ATV use, trail users who disregard trail closers related to raptor nesting and after-hour

use (i.e. night time mountain biking).

 

Several habitat improvement projects took place at Fossil Creek in 2007, including restoration of 60 acres to native short-grass prairie, installation of four floating habitat platforms and an osprey platform. Current management issues at Fossil Creek include visitors going onto the ice and users hiking with their dogs.

 

Glade Park is a significant day use area. A “Fishing is Fun” grant was received which will enable necessary work to take place, including enhancement of trout habitat and erosion control.

 

In 2007, an osprey platform was installed at Ramsay Shockey Open Space. The primary management issue at this area is visitor conflict.

 

Travis presented the primary management issues on the District’s four properties which will have future public access. 1) Chimney Hollow: ATV use and unauthorized hunting; 2) Long View Farm: hikers, dogs, snowmobilers and littering; 3) Red Tail Ridge: hikers and dogs; and 4) River Bluffs: dogs, hikers and fires. Management improvements at River Bluffs include: invasive species mitigation, shoreline re-vegetation and instillation of raptor perches.

 

The Blue Mountain District hosted a 40-hour COSA ranger training. Over 40 rangers attended from nine agencies throughout the state. Presently, Larimer County rangers are participating in a 60-hour in-house training.

 

  • 2007 Volunteer Program – Dutch Fla Havahan, Volunteer Coordinator

Dutch said 5,755 volunteers hours were recorded for the Open Lands Program in 2007 while the Parks Program had 21,222 volunteer hours. Volunteer accomplishments for the Department in 2007 included: a full compliment of Park Ranger Assistants, the Good Sams Club constructed the “Annphitheater” at Carter Lake, General Electric conducted a combination teambuilding and volunteer exercise at Horsetooth Mountain Park trailhead prior to the re-grand opening, the Catch a Special Thrill event at Horsetooth Reservoir, CSUnity Day at Eagle Ridge Conservation Easement and the Open Lands’ small grants and silent auction.

 

Dutch added looking at this year volunteers have already contributed over 2,327 hours, 21 volunteer trail maintenance events have been scheduled and the Department has 80 new volunteers. One of the vital volunteer positions for the Parks Program is the volunteer Campground Hosts. This year nine hosts were needed and have been secured. Dutch noted the Volunteer Program will begin a strategic planning process similar to the process the Education Program recently completed.

 

BOARD COMMENT: Items not on the agenda

  • The Board had a discussion regarding the importance for having adequate time to review the EIS for the NISP project. Bob made a recommendation to the Department Director to ask the County Commissioners to request an extension from the Army Corp of Engineers for the review and comment period of the EIS for the NISP project. Ben seconded and the motion passed unanimously. (See Information Item “The EIS for the NISP project …”)

 

ACTION:

·  Crowder Donation Final Report.  See enclosure. Jerry White, Senior Land Agent

Jerry said the Crowder property is located just south of the trailhead at Devil’s Backbone and north of Highway 34. The approximately 12-acre parcel is protected by a conservation easement. The Open Lands Program will consider developing a small interpretive, geological loop on the parcel. The appraised value is $100,000, all of which will be donated. Bob motioned to accept the donation of the Crowder property. Ben seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

 

Bob requested a thank you letter be written to the family.

 

DISCUSSION:

  • Draft:  River Bluffs Management Plan Jeffrey Boring, Natural Resource Specialist

Jeffrey provided a brief introduction explaining the statues for developing a resource management plan for Rivers Bluffs Open Space in preparation of providing public access to the property. He noted the second site visit by the Technical Advisory Team (TAT) took place today and the next public meeting is scheduled for the end of May.

 

The two primary concerns at the first public meeting on February 21 were 1) the proposed trailhead location and 2) use of horses on the trail. During the second site visit, TAT members visited several potential trailhead locations. They recommended the initial proposed trailhead location, but moving it further east. This location would mitigate both potential noise generated by trailhead users which could affect adjacent golfers and decrease the likeliness of golf balls striking trailhead users and/or their vehicles. Users might notice some traffic noise attributed to Highway 392, however the western bluff will lessen this impact compared to alternative trailhead locations. Another consideration the team evaluated from each trailhead alternative was the number of adjacent homes a future trailhead would be visible from. The recommended trailhead location by TAT members is significantly fewer then all alternative sites, except location initially proposed.

 

During the first public meeting members of the public expressed interest for equestrian use on the future trail. It was explained to the public that the area north of River Bluffs is within the GMA for the Town of Timnath and is planned for future development; additionally the Town of Windsor to the south of River Bluffs has a policy not permitting equestrian use on trails within city limits. Since the first public meeting, staff has learned the agricultural properties and rural land south of River Bluffs fall within Windsor’s GMA, indicating it is prone to future development.

 

The highest priorities of protection for the property’s natural resources are as follows: 1) the Poudre River which was channelized during the late 1960s or early 1970s; 2) Fossil Creek is a high priority restoration area; 3) protection of the wetlands which were determined of highest quality in the County during a mid-1990s survey; 4) the unique and fragile island of soils comprising the western bluffs; 5) the grasslands located in the northeast corner of the property and 6) the irrigated agricultural fields which are currently leased. Another resource identified on the property is a water conveyance structure.

 

Ben asked about the trail alignment north of River Bluffs. K-Lynn responded the Poudre River Trail is the highest priority. She indicated conversations are taking place with landowners as well as with staff from both Timnath and Windsor identifying and discussing a variety of trail alignments north of the property.

 

Sue asked about the statues of the existing parking lot near the County line.  Jeffrey said the parking lot is very small and has a dangerous turning radius. The Poudre River Trail Incorporated has indicated they will continue to maintain the parking area for now.

 

Bob stated the opportunity for more non-consumptive recreation is being missed. The existing road near the river would be a great place for birding and a handicapped accessible fishing ramp should be considered at either the river or the pond. He offered the idea of constructing a temporary trailhead until the trail alignment north of River Bluffs is determined.

 

  • Larimer County Conservation Easements Synopsis: (See handouts.) Charlie Johnson, Land Agent

Charlie provided two handouts, one of a map and the second outlining conservation easement figures, including: 1) easement name; 2) value; 3) amount the County paid for the easement; 4) landowner donation amount; 5) other sources of funds; 6) partner names; 7) conservation easement holder; and 8) acreage. He noted the Open Lands Program has been very successful with landowners donating at least a quarter of the appraised land value. The Program has over $16.5 million of conservation easements of which the County has paid just over $5 million, over $4.5 million has been donated and over $7 million from other sources of funding.

 

FINANCIAL REPORT:

  • Cost Accounting and Indirect Costing – (See handout.) Lori Smith, Senior Accountant

Lori provided a complete overview of the Department’s cost accounting and indirect costing. See handout.

 

Nancy asked if this system of cost accounting enables the Department to project costs. If so, can projected costs for different types of open spaces be determined? Lori responded this is an objective method to project budgets and record actual cost for the entire department. She added a formula has been developed based on cost per acre, based on an acres management zone classification.

 

DIRECTOR’S REPORT:  

  • Gary revisited the conversations regarding both Red Mountain and Hermit Park open spaces (see

Information Items). He clarified that the figures presented to the Board are not final. This is a very dynamic process and the figures are rapidly changing. This information should provide you an understanding of the next six months. Next month we will provide all the information for discussion, full transparency and full disclosure.

 

Bob requested to receive budget and cost handouts in advance. Gary said this can be done. Additionally, about 20 FAQ’s related to the current budgets and project costs will be presented this should provide the Board with a greater understanding of what is happening.

 

  • Gary provided a brief update regarding the Big Thompson parcels. Last Friday the Parks Advisory

Board visited sites and discussed whether or not to retain the properties. The media is saying Larimer County is selling fishing access to the public. This is not true. River access will be saved for public access. What is being discussed is to sale portions of parcels to members of the public; however river access will not be sold.

 

Nancy indicated the OLAB received a letter for the Wildlife Federation regarding the sale of these parcels. She wants to ensure someone follows-up with them. Gary said he would get the notes from the PAB’s site visit to the OLAB.

 

  • Gary said a designated biomass utilization site on the Boulder – Larimer County’s line will be submitted

to the Planning Commission in May. The two counties are partnering to fund both the staffing for the site and to lease some property for the operation. Three other sites are also being evaluated in Larimer County.

 

  • Nancy asked whether Larimer County is planning to manage recreation on the proposed Glade

Reservoir. Gary indicated the Parks Advisory Board will discuss this matter and he encouraged the OLAB sub-committee to do the same. He added he was misquoted in the Sunday paper stating that Larimer County would manage recreation of the proposed reservoir if it is approved. If the reservoir is constructed and Larimer County manages the recreation, it will have to pay for itself, including all of the expenses associated with camping, etc.

 

EXECUTIVE SESSION:  (24-6-402(4) (a) C.R.S. Purchase, acquisition, lease, transfer or sale of any real or personal property interest. Sue moved to go in to Executive Session at 8:02 pm, Ben seconded and the motion carried unanimously.

 

The meeting was adjourned by a motion from Bob. The motion was seconded by Jean and carried unanimously. The meeting was adjourned at 8:09 pm.

 

Background Image: Rocky Mountain National Park by Sue Burke. All rights reserved.