Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
 

MINUTES

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

5:30-8:30 p.m.

NOTE LOCATION:   Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building

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

Chad LaChance

Russell Fruits

Barry Lewis, Vice Chair

 

Staff

Gary Buffington

K-Lynn Cameron

Mark Caughlan

Lori Smith

Dan Rieves

 

Debra Wykoff

 

 

 

Absent: 

Kathy Palmeri

 

 

 

 

The January 8, 2008, 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 November 27, 2007, were approved. 

 

5:35     PUBLIC COMMENT: Items not on the agenda – None

 

5:50     GENERAL INFORMATION:  Questions – 5 minutes

·  We welcome Commissioner Randy Eubanks, who is replacing Kathay Rennels as the liaison to the Parks Advisory Board.  Thanks to Kathay for her continuing support.

·  The Open Lands Advisory Board (OLAB) will meet at the Loveland Library Multi-Purpose Room on January 24, 2008, at 5:00 p.m.

 

5:55     BOARD COMMENT: Items not on the agenda – 5 minutes

 

            Linda requested that members notify Deb of regrets only for future meetings.

 


PRESENTATIONS: 

Funding Sources Overview:  Uses & Limitations

The funding sources for each component of the Parks Program and the limitations on the use of those revenues were reviewed by Deb Wykoff, Administrative Services Manager, Lori Smith, Sr. Accountant, K-Lynn Cameron, Open Lands Program Manager and Gary Buffington, Director, with the aid of the charts which are attached.  Specific funding issues which were addressed included:

Forestry Program:  Most of the funding for this program will be gone by 2009.  Currently, General Fund covers 43% of personnel costs only.  Gary discussed the challenge of finding funding to replace that; and of meeting the threat of pine beetle infestation which is moving this way.  He reviewed several options, including increased General Fund support, reduction of the Forester’s position to half-time; or elimination of the program.  County Forester, Dave Lenz, has been with the County for 30 years.  Gary would prefer to delay consideration of the latter two options until Dave’s retirement, provided adequate funding can be found to continue the program.

 

Board comment:

·  What percent of the Forestry budget is personnel cost? (Approximately 70%.)

·  What can a one-person staff do to combat pine beetle coming over the continental divide? (There is little which can be done to prevent the advance of the beetle. We partner with other public agencies on efforts to mitigate the impact – forest thinning and public education.)

 

General Fund:  The Parks program will receive $269,847 in General Funds in 2008 (not including the additional appropriation to the Forestry program ).  Future reduction or elimination of this subsidy is possible as demands on County General Funds continue to increase.  These funds, which cover approximately 7% of total program costs, are allocated as follows:

  • Horsetooth Mountain Park (supplementing park-generated revenues)
  • Big Thompson Canyon Parks
  • Special projects and contingency
  • Education Program costs allocated to the park districts
  • Volunteer Program costs allocated to the park districts
  • The County’s required match to federal funds for weed control at the reservoirs
  • A portion of trail maintenance costs allocated to the park districts

 

Board comment:

·  How does the General Fund for the Forestry Program relate to this?  (It is separate – the Forestry Program has historically been a General Fund program, like most other County departments.  The allocation of General Fund to Parks, on the other hand, is a limited annual subsidy to a self-funded department.)

·  What are the costs and sources of funding for trails?  (Park-generated revenues cover the balance of trail maintenance expenses for the Parks program; development of new trails is funded by Lottery, grants and open space sales tax as appropriate.)

 

Gary addressed future options for use of General Fund (approximately $95,000) now going to Horsetooth Mountain Park, in the event that management responsibility is transferred from Parks to the Open Lands Program:

  • Some portion of these funds could remain in the Horsetooth Mountain budget to supplement open space funds
  • Transfer these funds to the Forestry Program
  • Eliminate user fees on the east side of Horsetooth Reservoir, and replace with General Fund
  • Maintenance costs associated with Big Thompson Canyon fishing access parcels
  • Upper and Lower Picnic Rock recreation access areas in the Poudre Canyon – Ft. Collins is getting out of managing them.
  • Reduce impact to user fees for the planned expansion of the campground reservation system to include a point of sale component

Conservation Trust Fund / Lottery:  Historically, the County’s distributions of state lottery funds (based on population in the unincorporated areas of the County) have been used to fund:

§  Capital improvements in the parks,

§  Capital equipment replacement, and

§  Limited subsidies to park programs without another revenue source. 

During the next three years, the existing Lottery fund balance will be used to match federal funding for capital improvements at the reservoirs.  These projects will be discussed in detail at the next Board meeting.

 

Bureau of Reclamation federal matching grants:  At the four reservoirs, the Bureau of Reclamation provides grant funding for up to a 50% match on:

§  Capital improvements,

§  ADA (Americans with Disabilities) retrofits and new facilities,

§  Weed control and

§  Security of dams. 

Currently, Reclamation has committed $1.2 million in matching funds for ADA-related enhancements.

 

Open Space Sales Tax:  Open Lands Program Manager, K-Lynn Cameron, reviewed how the sales tax revenues have been allocated.  Five percent of annual revenues received from 1996 through 2003 were allocated to park improvements at existing parks.  A total of $1,312,023 has been invested in park improvement projects during that time.  30% of total tax revenues are set aside for long term management through 2018.  $1.75 million went to acquire Hermit Park last year.  In later years, those funds must be repaid to the long term management fund.  $4.2 million in bonds were borrowed in 2003, and must also be repaid over the life of the tax.  The current plan is to go back to the voters in 2010 to renew the tax.

 

Board comment:

  • What are the defined priorities for future acquisitions?  See staff response.
  • Why were no more funds allocated in 2005 and 2006?  See staff response.
  • Does the asking price go up when a parcel is identified as “the last piece of the puzzle?”  (Yes!  This is a given.) 
  • Do we acquire mineral rights with these properties?  (Not usually.  If not, we must provide a geologist’s letter that the likelihood of mining is negligible.) 
  • What about uranium fields?
  • What is the reason that long term management costs continue to escalate?  See staff response. 

 

Staff response:

  • Regional trails will be a big future priority, as well as acquiring private in-holdings at existing open space properties.
  • By approval of the County Commissioners, the balance of funds were committed to open space acquisition, development and long term management.
  • We also need to be prepared to go after unforeseen opportunities like Hermit Park.
  • Long term management costs have flattened out some now that we have several years of data for future projections.  In the beginning of our program, we were using cost-per-acre estimates from other agencies, many of which do not include personnel or capital improvements in such calculations, because those costs are covered by General Fund or other sources.  However, our program is 100% self-funded from the sales tax.
  • Within the next 3 years, when we go back to the voters, the tax will be expanded to include parks and trails as well as open space.  The Open Lands Advisory Board has begun working on options for that.

 

INFORMATIONAL ITEMS:

Blue Mountain District –  Manager Dan Rieves reported:

  • Dam outlet project is going smoothly.  Water should begin coming back into the reservoir, starting in March.
  • The Carter Lake Marina project broke ground last week.  Todd Juergens, County Engineering, is project manager.  Dan shared the architect’s drawings of the new building.
  • Hermit Park – the plan for the 2008 opening was explained.
  • 75 slash piles were burned at Carter Lake with funding for forest management project.

Horsetooth District – Manager Mark Caughlan reported:

  • The new Horsetooth Mountain Park Trailhead is functioning well, and receiving compliments from visitors.
  • Forest thinning at Horsetooth Mountain is ongoing with an $80,000 grant from the Colorado State Forest Service.
  • Fuel from the cutting will be used in a CSU project to generate power.
  • Shower building bids will be going out soon; we hope to have them up and running by May.
  • 250 slash piles have been burned so far.
  • Snow pack is about average at this point.
  • Red Mountain Ranch management plan has been completed; now we are working on plans for the trails and trailhead for a 2009 opening.
  • Two new permanent park rangers have been hired at Horsetooth (Joe Koch and Dean Martinson.)


ACTION ITEMS:

Horsetooth Mountain Park funding transfer to the Open Lands Program 

Gary Buffington presented a proposal to transfer the cost of operating Horsetooth Mountain Park from the Parks Program to the Open Lands Program, funded by open space sales tax, beginning July 1, 2008. This would ensure consistent management of trails at a higher level with sales tax funding, and would allow General Fund dollars allocated to Horsetooth Mountain to be redistributed to other uses.

 

Russell Fruits made, and Chad La Chance seconded, a motion to transfer the cost of operating Horsetooth Mountain Park from the Parks Program to the Open Lands Program.  The motion passed by unanimous voice vote.

 

 

Big Thompson River Fishing Access

Public comment:

Dallas Maurer – Adjacent property owner to parcel 12CSeveral other property owners are present to express support for the proposal submitted.  He participated in the walk-through of the properties with other fishermen.  The technical issues of granting fishing access in deeds is not a concern to this group.  They have good relationships with fishermen.  Their concerns involve traffic, parking on private property, trash, dirty diapers, etc.

Trigg White, Robert Trout, Dr. Colbert Cushing, with Trout Unlimited in Estes Park – Recreational use by fishermen in the canyon has exploded in recent years.  They urge the County to preserve public access in perpetuity on all parcels owned by the County, including any which are transferred to private ownership.  Their concern is maintenance of public access where currently available.

Mary Ann Forbes, property owner – Her family has owned property on the Big Thompson River from the beginning, on both sides of the access road.  She is concerned about the property lines being maintained in original locations (e.g., 3 feet into the river.)  The County has not taken care of these properties.  They hope the properties will be sold and better maintained.  If these properties return to private ownership, can the access road be returned to private control?

Leroy Rady, neighbor – County Engineer told him the access road is only 14 feet wide.  This is not enough for public access.  Why should property owners pay to maintain the road for public access?  The road should be returned to private control and access only.

Bev Stroble, property owner adjacent to one parcel – They found out about this agenda item by accident.  Their concern is about receiving notice of all related issues.  She understands that at this point, only people interested in purchasing a particular parcel will receive notification.

Austin Condon, Alpine Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, submitted a letter, attached, which summarized the fishing access issues in the Big Thompson Canyon and urged Larimer County to preserve public fishing access by retaining ownership of appropriate parcels and by retaining a public access easement over parcels which are sold to private owners.

Report by Board members:

Board members, Tom Miller and Frank Cada, reported on their tour of parcels identified by the Loveland Fishing Club as appropriate to be retained for public fishing access, and presented a proposal for a 60-day public review process to be followed prior to sale of any parcel on the Big Thompson River.  

The Loveland Fishing Club looked at a number of the parcels and identified 12 parcels that appeared to be appropriate for fishing access.  Recently several people again toured the parcels:  Austin Condon, Walt Graul, Dallas Maurer, John Barber, Ken Eis, Frank Cada and Tom Miller.  Frank displayed maps of the parcels, specifically 12c.  These properties have not been surveyed and will not be surveyed prior to sale due to the prohibitive cost.  No decisions will be made tonight concerning any specific parcels.

Tom and Frank met with Gary Buffington and propose a 60 day public review process prior to offering a parcel for sale.  The Parks Advisory Board (PAB) would be advised and public notice would be published in the newspaper 90 days in advance.  At the next regular PAB meeting, public input would be accepted, and at the following meeting, public input will be considered and the Board would make a recommendation of sale or retention to the Board of Commissioners.

Tom Miller made, and Frank Cada seconded, a motion that the proposal be adopted.

Board discussion:

Chad LaChance:  More than 90 days will be required to clear title on a parcel.

Gary Buffington:  These sales will be “as is” without a survey or title insurance, except at buyers expense.

Title insurance issues were discussed.

Rob Harris:  He is not comfortable assuming that any parcels would be “uncontested.”  If sufficient advance public notice is not given, this could come back to bite the department.

Rich Harter:  Is there some urgency to decide this tonight?  Can it be discussed at a future meeting?

Gary Buffington:  The adjoining property owners to parcel 12c have been waiting 3 years, and this is transaction is already in process – Gary requested authorization by the Board to continue with this transaction.

Ivan Andrade:  He expressed concern about the Board becoming bogged down in real estate issues – this is ‘off-task’ for the Board.  Properties should be batched together, not presented piecemeal.

Linda Knowlton:  Is the proposed process “do-able” for county staff?

Dan Rieves:  Yes – we were planning to do this anyway.  However, the Board should not get involved in reviewing all property issues – only issues pertaining to the recreation value of the parcels are appropriate for Board consideration. 

Dave Coulson:  Under the motion passed at the last meeting, all the parcels must come before the Board for consideration prior to sale, but a 90 day public notice period is not required.

Gary Buffington explained that the County Commissioners have already approved a process, which has been in use for the past several years, and which requires:

a)   Notice to persons who have expressed interest in the specific parcels under consideration

b)   Notice to adjoining landowners

Following discussion, a vote was taken on the motion.  The motion failed on hand vote, 3 in favor, 7 opposed.

Tom Miller observed that the motion approved at the last meeting already requires a 60 day public notice period prior to being offered for sale – the proposal tonight simply defined how that process would occur.

Public Comment:  What about Austin Condon’s letter? 

Gary:  Staff will keep that in mind when dealing with property owners.

FUTURE AGENDA ITEMS:

February _12, 2008: 

2008 Parks Capital Improvement Projects Budget Overview –Deb Wykoff, Admin. Services Manager – 30 min.

 

March 11, 2008: 

Presentation by Northern Water about proposed plans for Glade Reservoir – 45 minutes

Presentation by Lori Smith, Sr. Accountant, on Department of Natural Resources Cost Accounting – 30 min.

 


MINUTES of January 8, 2008, Cont.

 

The meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

 

 

 

Debra Wykoff

 

 

Approved: ____________________________                     ______________________

                 Chair, Parks Advisory Board                                       (Date)

 

 

Next regular meeting: February 12, 2008, at the Boyd Lake Room, Larimer County Courthouse Office Building

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