Next week voters in the sprawling, mid-valley Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District will head to the polls. Four people are running for three open seats on the board of directors. Three of them are incumbents and the fourth jumped in after voters turned down a proposal last fall, to build a recreation center. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.
It’s a cloudy, chilly day as Ted Bristol drives me through the 130-acre Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. Despite the light snowfall, some bundled-up dog waters are braving the cold.
"The dog park - look what we put in there. See those tubes for the dogs? We have two parks - one for the bigger dogs and one for the smaller dogs," Bristol says.
This park is gaining popularity. The district doesn’t track visitations but one way to gauge its usage is the dog waste bag count. This year park staff ordered 32,000 of the small green sacks found in dispensers dotting the park. Bristol is on the board of directors for the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District and he’d like to keep his seat.
"We’ve brought a first-class park district to the community. We’ve brought advanced national features that have cost the taxpayers no more, we’re fiscally very responsible and we’ve been operating on a 10 to 12 year old budget."
Bristol is one of three incumbents running this election to stay on the board for another four year term. Richard Pavcek is another.
"I think usage of the park and the knowledge of that has gone way up in the last four years," Pavcek says.
He credits the current board with bringing in a competent park director who has grown the area’s offerings from soccer fields to lacrosse tournaments and a new BMX course. In the future, Pavcek sees more of the same.
"We keep trying to bring in more programming and expand to other areas of the district. We try to partner with a lot of the local groups to expand to not only use the park but other areas of the community," he says.
Crown Mountain Park came to the attention of many people when the district proposed building a recreation center there last Fall. Voters turned down a ballot question that asked for a property tax increase to build and operate a 63,000 square foot facility. The outcome of that election is why Basalt resident Katie Schwoerer is a candidate this election.
"I’m running because I would like to represent the majority of the community that perhaps has a different vision for the park and that vision would be without a significant and very expensive rec center that the current board has proposed and supported," she says.
Schwoerer says she’d bring more transparency to the board’s actions and future plans. And even though the November election’s over, she thinks a similar recreation center proposal could come back.
"I think it’s still an issue because there’s still approvals out there and there has been official and unofficial talk by board members that the reason the rec center failed was because it was too expensive, and if entry fees had been lowered, perhaps it would have passed, so I think it’s still in the mind of many of the board members."
Bill Reynolds is also running this election. The incumbent is an ardent supporter of recreation centers and says last fall, the timing was off.
"It was tough. We were still coming out of a recession. The real question is, as we move forward, it’s not a matter of do we need additional facilities because we absolutely do. So, will it come back? Sooner or later. But, I believe very strongly that there will be a partnership in between the Town of Basalt, the school district and the (Crown Mountain) Park and Recreation District. And, that’s the way it should be," he says.
As a board, he says, they’ve worked to develop relationships with those entities and if a rec center proposal comes back, a cooperative effort is key.
The district is using a polling place this election, instead sending out mail ballots. Some community members say this makes voting more difficult. The district contends it’s a money-saving move.
The election is Tuesday, May 6th. The polling place will be open at the Crown Mountain offices, opposite the tennis courts and BMX park, from 7am to 7pm that day. Absentee ballots can be filled out now. They’re also available at the Park office.