Loveland Bike Trail
 

MINUTES

Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Bison Visitor Center, 1800 SCR 31, Loveland, CO

Text Box: The mission of the Larimer County Parks and Open Lands Department is to establish, protect, and manage significant regional parks and open lands, providing quality outdoor recreational opportunities and stewardship of natural resource values.  We are committed to fostering a sense of community and appreciation for the natural and agricultural heritage of Larimer County for present and future generations.

 

Present:

Parks Advisory Board Members:

Linda Knowlton, Chair

Rob Harris

Ivan Andrade

Rich Harter

Frank Cada

Tom Miller

Dave Coulson

Kathy Palmeri

Russell Fruits

 

 

Staff

Gary Buffington

K-Lynn Cameron

Mark Caughlan

Meegan Flenniken

Dan Rieves

Lori Smith

Debra Wykoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absent: 

Chad LaChance

 

Barry Lewis, Vice Chair

 

 

 

The October 23, 2007, meeting of the Parks Advisory Board was called to order by Linda Knowlton, Chair, at 5:30 p.m.  The minutes of the meeting on September 25, 2007, were approved. 

 

PUBLIC COMMENT: None

 

GENERAL INFORMATION:  

  • The Open Lands Advisory Board (OLAB) will meet at the Loveland Library on October 25, 2007, at 5:00 p.m.
  • Parks and Open Lands events for November.  See attached.
  • The 3rd Annual Northern Colorado Birding Fair held on September 29th at Fossil Creek Regional Reservoir Open Space was once again a great success!  Over 500 people visited the booths and participated in events throughout the day.  Kerri, Windy, Travis and all the other folks involved did a great job organizing this event!
  • On October 11, a prescribed fire at Devil’s Backbone was successfully ignited for cheat grass management purposes.  Meegan and Jeffrey did a great job facilitating this stewardship project!  See the enclosed article from the Reporter Herald.
  • The Land Trust Alliance Rally was held in Denver the first week in October.  The field trip we hosted at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch to ride horses and hike through the conserved portions of the ranch was a huge success for the 50 participants primarily from the East Coast.  K-Lynn and Meegan presented a session with Fort Collins on the Laramie Foothills Mountains to Plains Project. Additionally, Meegan, Peter Newman and Jim Wurz, both from CSU, presented an informative session on management zoning.
  • The Friends of Larimer County Parks and Open Lands had fundraising booths at the Whole Foods in Fort Collins and Boulder for Hermit Park Open Space on October 10th.  Almost $12,000 was raised!
  • The Volunteer Appreciation event was held on Saturday, October 20th at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch. Ivan Andrade expressed his astonishment at the over 25,000 hours donated by volunteers to this department in a year, and the enthusiasm of the volunteers.
  • On November 1st, we are offering a continuing education program entitled Conservation Easements, Appraisals and Tax Credits for Open Space and Agricultural Lands at the Lincoln Center from 8:00 to 2:00 pm. 

 

BOARD COMMENT: Items not on the agenda

§  Big Thompson Canyon Properties

Tom Miller reported that there has been interest expressed by fishermen about the County’s plans for the properties in the Big Thompson Canyon which were acquired by the County after the Big Thompson flood in 1976.  This will be on the November agenda for further discussion. 

Gary Buffington explained briefly that over 150 parcels of various sizes were acquired by the County.  Most are not large enough or located appropriately to provide public access to the river.  Some parcels which do meet the criteria will be kept for fishing access.  Other parcels will be offered for sale to adjoining or previous landowners and/or to the general public.  Two sales have occurred so far.  Gary will be giving an update to the County Commissioners on Monday. 

The properties which will be sold will a) save the County the cost of maintaining them, b) put them back on the tax rolls, and c) return ownership to the private sector.  These properties are maintained by General Fund dollars, which may not continue to be available.  It costs about $20,000 per year to maintain just the four areas which are currently open to the public (including Glade Park.) 

Tom said about 20 of the parcels are accessible from public roads for fishing access, based on a tour of the parcels by Trout Unlimited members.  It is the opinion of the group that these parcels should remain in the public domain and be accessible to the public for river access.

           

PRESENTATIONS: 

§  2008 Park Operations Budget – Lori Smith, Sr. Accountant and Deb Wykoff, Administrative Services Manager

This presentation focused on the Park Operations portion of the Parks Fund (capital improvements will be the topic at a future PAB meeting.)  Revenues were described by source, expenditures by personnel and operations and by programs, as illustrated on the pie charts which accompany these minutes.

 

§  Red Mountain Open Space Management Plan update – Meegan Flenniken, Open Lands Resource Specialist

K-Lynn Cameron, Open Lands Manager, told the story of the acquisition of Red Mountain Ranch with funding from GOCO for the “Laramie Foothills:  Mountains to Plains” partnership project.  Fort Collins purchased the Soapstone Ranch, adjacent to Red Mountain, for $7 million, which was accepted by GOCO as the local match for the project.  55,000 acres were protected, including 13,500 at Red Mountain Ranch.  The Gallegos property, just acquired, will be the location of the trailhead for Red Mountain.  65% of the whole project will be conservation easements to protect ranchland – up to 23,000 acres will be protected through trades with area landowners.

 

Meegan Flenniken reviewed the planning process for the Red Mountain Management Plan, which was adopted this fall.  She also described the natural, historic, cultural, and western heritage resources found within Red Mountain.  The project encompasses the span from the short grass prairie to the foothills woodland ecosystems.  Mountain mahogany shrub lands are a rare plant community which is found predominantly in northern Larimer County.

 

The Red Mountain Management Plan identifies the highest conservation priorities and defines management zones based on visitor experience, resource and recreation values, carrying capacity, and seamless connection to Soapstone.  Hiking, biking, horseback riding, guided off-trail hikes, limited hunting are allowed uses.  Motorized vehicles and dogs are not permitted.  There was surprising public support for prohibiting dogs due to the impact on wildlife movement. There will be no camping allowed initially, due to concerns about cultural resources.  The trailhead will have 30 parking spaces and 10? horsetrailer parking spaces.

ACTION ITEMS:

§  Hermit Park Open Space Management Plan – Recommendation of adoption of the plan

Russell Fruits made and Rob Harris seconded a motion that the Hermit Park Open Space Management Plan be recommended for approval by Gary Buffington, Director.  Motion approved.  Gary thanked Meegan for her work on the plan; Meegan shared the credit with Dan Rieves and the rest of the core team.

Linda Knowlton inquired when the park will open.  Dan explained that it depends on how the remainder of the site planning process progresses, as well has how “open” is defined.  If uses are limited to historical activities and volumes, we can open sooner.  However, before high volume public use and/or different activities can be permitted, there are many improvements (such as a turn lane on the highway) and other requirements which must be met.

 

DISCUSSION ITEMS:

§  Horsetooth Mountain Park internal transfer – Gary Buffington, Meegan Flenniken and K-Lynn Cameron, Open Lands Manager

K-Lynn Cameron described the history of Horsetooth Mountain.  It was acquired in 1981, with the extension of a one-year sales tax.  Excess funds were used to construct the original trails and trailhead.  A survey of users indicated support for a user fee, which was implemented.  Master Plans were implemented in 1993 and 1998.

 

Meegan Flenniken gave an overview of the Horsetooth Mountain management plan, which was recently updated.  The park now is over 2200 acres. One goal was to reduce the miles of trail in the park; but the end result was actually an increase in the miles of trail (now 29 miles, total.)  There was significant public resistance to removing any trail sections from public use.

 

Most visitors hike to Horsetooth Rock or to Horsetooth Falls.  This area is designated as front-country management zone, due to high level of impact on trails.  The Falls Trail will be renovated in 2008 as a Volunteers of Outdoor Colorado (VOC) project.  Most of the remainder of the 20 plus miles of trail are located in the backcountry management zone, which receive a lower level of maintenance.  The new trailhead, which was completed and reopened in September, is a showcase for the department!

 

Other provisions of the plan include:

  • Historic Preservation management zone for the homestead ranch buildings.
  • A few back country campsites will be designated.
  • Rare butterfly habitat on the east side of the park will be protected.

 

Board comment:

  • Why are backcountry campsites located where they are?  (Mark explained that this is an attempt to disperse use.
  • Is the public allowed in sensitive resource protection areas?  (No.  There is no public access point to the  Culver property.)
  • How much overlap is there between use at the Horsetooth Mountain and at Horsetooth Reservoir?  (There is mostly independent use of each area, although some annual permit users use both.)

 

Gary explained the reasons for and against transfer of Horsetooth Mountain to the Open Lands Program:

  • Use of open space dollars for management costs vs. use of General Fund to supplement fees.  Fees would remain the same.  The open space fund could not absorb the costs without continuing the fees.
  • Trail management and resource projects would be increased under Open Lands, approximately $30,000 per year.
  • Over the life of the sales tax, the cost to manage the Mountain Park is about $3 million, of which $2 million will be funded by sales tax, and $1 million from user fees.  Those are funds which could be used for other open space areas, if not applied to Horsetooth Mountain.

 

Board comment:

  • How would access change if it were an open space area?  (The Open Lands Advisory Board approved the new management plan.  Access would remain the same.  Only the funding mechanism would change.)
  • Would park permits still apply to both the mountain park and the reservoir?  (Yes.)
  • Was there any provision in the enabling legislation pertaining to fees? (Yes.)
  • Will this set a precedent in charging a fee at an open space?  (No – already done at Soderberg and Ramsey-Shockey.)
  • Will the name change?  (Yes – from Horsetooth Mountain Park to Horsetooth Mountain Open Space)
  • What is the staff recommendation?  (Staff recommends transferring.)
  • Does this shift the focus of the Parks Advisory Board to mainly aquatic recreation at the reservoirs, and not trails, etc?  (Not yet completely defined, but Gary envisions that both boards will make a joint recommendation in such cases, as more open space areas are opened for public recreation and managed by the park districts.)
  • Which board will oversee recreation management on open space areas?  (To be determined.)
  • When is the next open space tax vote?  (To be determined – the current tax ends in 2018; the department expects to go back to voters within the next few years.)
  • Are there any plans to acquire more land at HTMP?  (There are other adjoining lands that could be future potential options.)

 


A straw vote was taken by the Board, with seven in favor, one opposed, and one undecided.

 

Board comment:

  • Not prepared to vote - need more information about it. 
  • Favors it as long as the public supports this change as the owners of the park.
  • What are the advantages to the park system in making this change? (Increased funding access to open space sales tax revenues.)  
  • Trusts staff’s recommendation.
  • It still smells like a park.  It appears to be simply a matter of moving funds around – redirecting open space dollars to a park, and diverting those funds from other uses.  How will the public perceive that?
  • There is nothing like Horsetooth Mountain in the county park system – it is a hybrid.  (K-Lynn Cameron explained that Horsetooth Mountain is in the middle of range of public use.)
  • Hermit Park blurs the line more, since it will be an open space with camping.
  • Does making it an open space increase leverage for future GOCO funding?  (No)

 

Blue Mountain District Manager, Dan Rieves, observed that Horsetooth Mountain is not generating enough funds to support itself now – that must be addressed somehow.  This item will come back for further discussion and action.

 

INFORMATIONAL ITEMS:

§  Park District updates – Park District Managers, Mark Caughlan and Dan Rieves

Horsetooth:

  • Mark noted that revenue estimates for budget have been exceeded.  He attributes that to improvements in facilities.
  • Water levels are becoming much more difficult to predict.  Lower water levels can severely impact the length of the recreation season.  Only 40% of the water now goes to agriculture; 60% goes to municipal use.
  • Closing Inlet Bay and half of South Bay and 3 cabins on November 1, for the season.

 

Blue Mountain:

  • Extremely low water level at Carter Lake due to outlet project.
  • Carter Lake levels have fluctuated but are now at the level at which it will stay throughout the project, which is slightly ahead of schedule at this point.  The reservoir will be filled in the spring, regardless, to meet water contracts.  Weather conducive to pouring concrete is the key factor at this point. 
  • Low water will provide excess parking in the spring which will be helpful if the marina parking lots are not completed.
  • Some camping areas will be closed for the winter.  However, visitation at Flatiron continues to be vigorous, including cabin rentals.
  • Sign replacement, painting, tree trimming are winter projects.
  • Maintenance staff is decimated due to injuries, which will impact work over the winter.
  • Park permit redesign project is underway to revamp the structure of permit sales and accounting.
  • Arrest control and defensive tactics in-service training has been completed.
  • New ranger staff began work on October 15 – Cindy Claggett and Jim Hawkins.
  • CXT pre-cast concrete restrooms and shower buildings – Mark and Dan met with them and Reclamation to learn about their products.
  • Hermit Park cabins continue to be rented for the “soft opening” fall season.  The new caretaker is now living onsite, making repairs and running volunteer projects.
  • Hermit Park site plan review is ongoing through the County planning department. 

 

§  License for Horsetooth Sail & Saddle, Inc. – Gary Buffington and Mark Caughlan

Gary distributed and noted highlights of the revised version of the new license proposed by the Sail & Saddle Club.  This version has been reviewed by the County Attorney, and is now submitted for Board review and comment.

 

Board comments:

  • The Sail Club has a unique agreement and it is difficult to see how much use is actually being granted by the license. For example, how many boats days are available and are they paying the same rate as normal boat users?
  • Five year contract would be preferable, since many conditions may change in 20 years.
  • As to these Whereas conditions:

§  WHEREAS, the Licensee satisfies public needs of the Licensor; and      

§  WHEREAS, the Licensee provides services to the Licensor which benefit the public; and

§  WHEREAS, the Licensee’s private operations are low-level and have a de minimus negative effect on the licensed premises and the reservoir itself, constituting a very small fraction of the amount of use of the Horsetooth Recreation Area; and ...etc.

  • It would be helpful if the county attorney could tell us what exactly this means and what we agreeing to. I am not sure it is wise to agree that we assume that they will always meet public needs, benefit the public, and have a minimum effect in the future. 
  •  The “whereas” clauses are inappropriate to a business contract. 
  • There was general consensus among the Board that this is a business deal. 

 

David Coulson made and Rich Harter seconded a motion that the “whereas” clauses be removed. The motion was approved by unanimous voice vote.  (Rob Harris had left the meeting prior to the vote.) 

 

Mark asked whether the Board is satisfied with the fees.  He thinks it is reasonable under the circumstances – they are moving from $1500 to $9000 in license fees over the five year term of the lease. 

 

Board comment:

  • The facility is in very poor condition.  It should be upgraded, particularly if it is going to be opened to the public.  It is unsafe. This should be required as part of the license.  (As a nonconforming use, current building codes do not apply to the club’s facility.)
  • Reduce the term of the license to less than five years, and re-evaluate it then.
  • The Sail & Saddle Club has been there for a long time; this is a good contract (except for the “whereas clauses”) and it moves away from a perpetual situation to a defined limited term.
  • Ivan Andrade notes conflicts in the wording (e.g., Correct legal name of the licensee?  Number of vehicles allowed?)  He will email those to Gary.

 

§  Bylaws Subcommittee report – Gary Buffington, Rob Harris, Tom Miller

This item was again deferred until November – the officers of the two boards have not met yet.

 


STANDING AGENDA ITEMS:

§  Parks Master Plan Implementation – Progress report. – Gary Buffington, Mark Caughlan, Dan Rieves

Projects which are first in line to begin construction include:

  • Carter Lake Marina and parking lot
  • Camper services buildings at Inlet Bay and South Bay by May.  $600,000 GOCO grant for Parks Master Plan projects is in the works.
  • Blue Sky Trailhead at “Field of Dreams”.

 

DIRECTOR’S REPORT:

§  Monthly update to the Board – 5 minutes

Copies of the Parks Master Plan Executive Summary were distributed to all Board members, along with the 2008 meeting schedule.

 

FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:

November 27, 2007: 

§  Final recommendation – Horsetooth Sail & Saddle, Inc., license

§  Presentation:  The Importance of Nature for Children – Marcella Wells, CSU

§  Funding Sources Overview:  Uses & Limitations – Deb Wykoff, Administrative Services Manager, Lori Smith, Sr. Accountant, and Gary Buffington, Director

 

The meeting was adjourned at 8:50 p.m.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

Debra Wykoff

 

 

 

 

Approved: ____________________________                     ______________________

                 Chair, Parks Advisory Board                                       (Date)

 

 

 

 

Next regular meeting: November 27, 2007, at the Bison Visitor Center, 1800 SCR 31, Loveland, CO      

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