How should city slice up funding pie for parks, trails?

Among task force recommendations: improving parks and buying land

Posted 3/11/19

As development reshapes the look of Littleton, the city's Open Space Task Force has developed specific priorities for open-space funding. The task force, convened in summer 2018, sought to synthesize …

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How should city slice up funding pie for parks, trails?

Among task force recommendations: improving parks and buying land

Posted

As development reshapes the look of Littleton, the city's Open Space Task Force has developed specific priorities for open-space funding.

The task force, convened in summer 2018, sought to synthesize a slew of previous reports to come up with a big-picture plan for the places Littleton plays.

Highest on the list: developing and renewing existing parks, which task force member Keith Reester, also the city's public works director, said have seen years of deferred maintenance.

“We've got a bunch of parks with no sidewalks to them,” Reester said at a March 5 study session that covered the task force's report.

Parks will be the focus of two city grant applications this year, Reester said at a March 5 city council study session.

In one application, the city and South Suburban Parks and Recreation District — which operates the majority of Littleton's parks — will each contribute a quarter-million dollars to revamp Harlow Park, which sits at Belleview Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, if Arapahoe County ponies up another half million.

“We've got a 30-year-old playground there,” Reester said.

In another application, the city will offer $10,000 and Littleton Public Schools will offer $51,400 if the county will throw in another $343,600 to upgrade the playground at Euclid Middle School.

The school district is an important partner with the city in park development, Reester said, because cities without such a partnership tend to declare school playgrounds off-limits to the general public. Littleton's agreement gives everyone access.

“There's not another playground in a two-mile radius” around Euclid, Reester said.

The task force also looked at how the city should slice up open-space funding it gets from the county.

The city is currently sitting on roughly $2.7 million saved up from a county tax “share-back” program, the report says. The city also receives another $1.2 million a year, some of which goes to maintaining South Platte Park.

The task force recommended divvying up the reserves and the annual income two ways:

For the reserves, the task force recommended setting aside $1 million — about 37.5 percent — to be ready to acquire property that comes up for sale. Another 41.25 percent should go to park renewal and the remainder, about 21.25 percent or about $500,000, should go to trails and trail connections.

Of the annual income, the task force recommended putting a quarter — about $250,000 — toward the land acquisition fund, another quarter to trails and trail connections, and the remaining half to park renewal.

Councilmember Karina Elrod expressed concern that the trails allocation was too low.

“All the studies that are being done recognize that it's a huge focus to enhance trails and connectivity,” Elrod said.

Mayor Debbie Brinkman said she was comfortable with the funding allocations, saying land acquisition is important.

“Land is getting a lot more expensive,” Brinkman said, adding that the pace of development means it's important to snatch up land when possible. “The risk involved in not (buying land) is greater than the risk of doing it.”

Overall, Reester said, Littleton should be proud of where it stands with open space.

“There's open space throughout the city,” Reester said. “We've been fortunate to create a network of open space that spans the community.”

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