The City released the findings of the Parks Solution Team on Friday, April 20, a fitting date, two days before Earth Day. It’s worth reading the full document, all 20 pages Parks Solutions Team Summary and Recommendations report. The summaries don’t include all the minor suggestions. (Hopefully, that doesn’t mean items like reduced water rates for community gardens will be ignored.)
Here are the highlights, based on reading the proposed document.
- TOPS Modification. TOPS is Trails and Open Space, an initiative approved by the voters years ago. What is currently being discussed is the increase in TOPS maintenance – it went from 6% up to 15% – that was approved by the voters a few years ago, and is about to expire,. This means that all the money the City will get toward park maintenance will be 6%.
This is what PST is proposing
The City put on the November 2012 ballot a measure that will allow for the original maintenance percentage (6:%) be used on all properties, not just TOPS properties. They also want to amend the parks category percentage (20%) be allowed to be used on either new park development or park maintenance and renovation at the discretion of the Parks Department.
These modifications would allow the Department to utilize up to 24.2% of the TOPS funds for maintenance, which equals approximately $1.45M as opposed to the current projections of 15% which equals $900,000, a difference of $550,000.
- 2. Addressing Water and Partnerships with Colorado Springs Utilities.
- a. Continue the 80% Conservation Rate for potable water agreement with the Utility Company (CSU) through 2020.
- b. Change current bond rules so that CSU could provide water to the Park Department at a reduced rate or free, like many other Front-Range communities.
- c. Create a seasonal line item on our utility bills to help “keep our parks green.”
- d. Encourage irrigation retrofits.
- e. Create a joint Park/CSU study to look at current irrigation and landscaping in parks.
- f. Support reduced tap fees for community and urban gardens.
- Park Land Dedication Ordinance. Replace the current plan with a with a new park land dedication, capital improvement and long-term maintenance ordinance.
- Re-Purpose Park Land
- Convert 10% of the current irrigated land into other uses.
- Reduce the amount of bluegrass and convert to new low-water grasses
- Repurpose under-utilize parks and partner with neighboring groups to create urban gardens, conversion to open space and endangered habitats and wetlands mitigations.
- Plan for On-Going Maintenance
- Water Sales Allotment.
Friday, April 20, 2012
The City of Colorado Springs announces the final recommendations of the Parks Solutions Team (PST). The PST, formed by Mayor Bach, was charged with recommending options to maximize the overall quality of life and economic development value of the City park assets now, and in the future, without assuming a tax increase would occur. The final report will be given to City Council at the Informal Meeting on Monday, April 23.
The PST, headed by Richard Skorman, began meeting in December 2011 and spent many hours evaluating how to balance opportunities for citizens with fiscal sustainability based on current resources, as well as exploring community partnerships as part of the solution. Following is a summary of the most significant recommendations; more details are available in the Parks Solutions Team Summary and Recommendations report.
1. Modify TOPS– Modify TOPS by way of a City referred measure placed on the November 2012 ballot to allow for the six percent maintenance allocation to be used on all properties, not just TOPS properties, and amend the 20 percent parks allocation to allow use for either new park development or park maintenance and renovation on all park sites,not just TOPS properties.
2. Address Water and Partnerships with Colorado Springs Utilities– Extend the current 80 percent Conservation Rate for potable water through at least 2020, support changing current bond covenants that limit water rate flexibility, create a seasonal park donation line item on utility bills, encourage continued support of irrigation retrofits, and support a reduced tap fee for community or urban gardens.
3. Park Land Dedication Ordinance– Eliminate thecurrent PLDO and replace it with a new park land dedication, capital improvement and long-term maintenance ordinance.
4. Re-purpose Park Land – Convert 10 percent of the present irrigated acreage to other uses by the end of 2013 (82 out of 820 acres), convert bluegrass in low-use parks to low-water turf, identify underutilized parks and explore repurposing opportunities and partnerships for each site, and pursue partnerships to include sports clubs, HOAs, etc.
5. Plan for New Park Ongoing Maintenance- Determine the long-term maintenance costs prior to erecting new parks and trails, purchasing open space, and entering into new partnerships; and consider placing long-term maintenance costs in the capital financing for new parks based on an amortization schedule to be paid for with set aside funding or through partnerships
6. Water Sales Allocation - CSU sells water to outside users and 50% of proceeds generated from outside water sales are currently being paid to the City – recommend these proceeds from those sales should be used to offset water costs.