Boulder Parks and Recreation is nearing the end of the master planning process

As Boulder Parks and Recreation is considering other sources of revenue, the department intends to review its service levels and possibly reduce some areas in order to maintain others.

The concept was backed by Boulder City Council during a study session on Tuesday, in one of the last touches the city council will have on the 2022 Parks and Recreation Master Plan before its potential adoption later this year.

“Our desires are insatiable and our finances are limited,” council member Mark Wallach said, after indicating his support for the prioritization idea.

Similarly, Board Member Bob Yates acknowledged that priorities change over the years. At the time of the last update, people were only talking about handball. Now that’s pickleball.

“Obviously you’re going to have to do your best to prioritize…recognizing that we can’t be everything to everyone in the community given our limited resources, he said.

The city’s parks and recreation department is nearing the end of a multi-year master plan process. The plan, an update to the 2014 master plan, aims to guide the ministry over the next five years and will shape the way it delivers its services.

In terms of recreation funding, the Boulder City Council has expressed support for charging adults the ability to pay the full cost of attending programs and visiting city facilities.

For example, Director of Parks and Recreation Ali Rhodes noted that the latest analysis indicated that it cost the department $10 per visit for an adult to go to a recreation center. The price has slowly risen but has not reached $10 yet.

Parks and Recreation has determined that without additional funding, it will not be able to provide additional programs for people with disabilities or those who qualify as low income.

There may also be a need to reconsider age-based discounts for older adults and youth.

Mayor Pro Tem Rachel Friend and Councilor Tara Winer questioned the idea of ​​offering a discount to all seniors, regardless of their needs. It seems likely that there are older people with the financial means to pay the full price and younger adults who could use the subsidy, both argued.

Rhodes noted that as adult prices continue to rise, so will others.

The draft master plan discussed on Tuesday identifies a number of additional funding sources, at least some of which would be needed without a reduction in services.

Grants and philanthropy are for one-time injections of funding to support specific projects or programs, the department noted.

An additional tax grant is considered an ongoing source of funding to support core ministry services, although there is no indication of support for this at this time.

Other revenue-generating opportunities include re-examining non-resident rights and commercial uses in the parks and exploring other entrepreneurial endeavors. Boulder considers anyone who lives or works in the city a resident.

In terms of revenue generation, the city council supported the concept of creativity.

“There is no magic money tree in the Council. We know that. We look forward to seizing opportunities where we can to support these community benefit programs,” Rhodes said.

If the city leans toward imposing additional fees, the ministry acknowledged that it would need to be accompanied by a conversation about fairness and a consideration of who is disproportionately impacted by the fees.

Given staffing shortages and financial constraints, Councilor Nicole Speer was curious to learn more about the ministry’s decision-making process.

According to Acting Director of Planning, Design and Community Engagement, Regina Elsner, the ministry first uses what is called the Recreation Priority Index.

“What we do in this index is we look at recreation programs and identify, through a series of questions and analysis, who benefits from those programs,” Elsner said.

It could be a community benefit, an individual benefit, or a recreational benefit. This helps determine priority and rate of cost recovery, she noted.

The Parks and Recreation Department also has an asset management program where it reviews the condition of a particular asset.

The draft plan outlines a number of funding scenarios with projects the parks and recreation department would expect to undertake in each.

For example, in the “budget constrained” scenario, the department would maintain the East and North Boulder Recreation Centers, but retire the South Boulder Recreation Center. In the “action” scenario, this would improve all three.

The plan will go through several public hearings before being officially adopted. The Parks and Recreation Advisory Council is due to hold a public hearing and make a recommendation at the end of June.

The town planning council comes next, before the municipal council makes the final decision in early August.

Louisa R. Loomis