By Derek Kutzer | Staff Writer
On Aug. 3, Town of Pagosa Springs Parks and Recreation Director Darren Lewis updated the Combined Parks and Recreation Advisory Board about the status of various projects that his department has been working on throughout the summer.
Before launching into the department report and an update on the summer projects, Lewis informed the board that Town Manager Andrea Phillips (her last day was Aug. 4) would be stepping away from the position and introduced the board to the incoming interim town manager, Greg Schulte.
Lewis also explained that County Commissioner Veronica Medina replaced Ronnie Maez as Archuleta County’s representative on the board.
During the department report section of the meeting, Lewis relayed that the parks department has been “working very hard to get completed what we planned for this year with the staff that we have.”
He mentioned a nagging water irrigation issue at Town Park and the adjacent athletic field, calling the debris in the pipes a continuing “struggle,” and that “at some point we will have to start looking at a new irrigation system.”
He said that parks staff are “working their tails off to try and keep up.”
The department has spent “close to $18,000 that was not budgeted for” to try and get the irrigation system up and running again, Lewis reported.
“We had to go five or six weeks without water at Town Park and the athletic field,” he said.
He noted the water was back on currently, but that “it’s still a struggle” to keep debris out of the lines and department staff is still trying to “get that out.”
On overall maintenance of the parks, Lewis mentioned that he sometimes has a limited staff on board, “sometimes only one or two” employees and sometimes “four or five.”
The main issue is “people not being able to be at work at times,” which leaves a limited staff to run the maintenance and tree trimming throughout the town’s parks, he explained.
On the recreation side of things, Lewis mentioned the sports seasons that had just come to an end (kids baseball and adult softball) and explained that both kids and adult soccer leagues are about to get underway.
Two projects that have been completed are the veterans bridge at Town Park and the pickleball courts at by Yamaguchi Park, he indicated.
On the veterans bridge, he said that “we were budgeted to replace the wood planks on that.”
The project was completed in June, he reported.
He explained that on the pickleball courts that the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held July 20 and that he was very pleased with the turnout and that it “seems like everyone is enjoying” the courts.
He noted that “a lot of work still needs to be done down there.”
He mentioned more parking, a possible sidewalk and landscaping around the courts that is slated to be installed.
He also mentioned that staff is looking at installing some shade spots and picnic tables for people to gather outside the courts to watch as spectators or just hang out, adding that the department would budget for these possibilities in the future.
One discussion topic that remains ongoing is the permanent location of the ice rink, which is slated to double as a proposed multiuse pavilion, Lewis indicated. The ice rink is currently located at South Pagosa Park.
But, Lewis explained to the board that he received direction from the Pagosa Springs Town Council to explore other options for a permanent location for the ice rink/multiuse pavilion.
He explained that Yamaguchi South is being seriously considered and that department staff is conducting a geotech investigation of the area to gather more information on if this would be an appropriate locale for the pavilion.
The department is still waiting on these geotech results, but plans to bring the question back before town council in September once the results can be considered. Plans for the ice rink/pavilion include installing a roof, which would allow multiple year-round uses.
Lewis explained the town needs to do its due diligence to find the right location for the pavilion, because “once that roof gets built, it’s not going anywhere,” saying that he wants to make sure “it’s built on a site that we want to see there for the next 10, 15 years.”
“At the end of the day, a location has not been chosen yet,” he said, but “staff is doing their due diligence to gather information, as much information as we can” to bring the issue back before the town council for a final decision, he said.
Lewis then turned to the erosion problems with the 5th Street trail along the San Juan River. The trail runs from Apache Street along the river’s west bank and ultimately pops out onto 6th Street. Due to a strong spring runoff, the trail was recently “washed out during high flow,” he said.
Lewis explained that there was a discussion at a prior town council meeting about possibly giving that easement up, but that the council ultimately decided to keep the easement “and do some type of temporary fix right now,” with it decided to add mulch to make it accessible.
He added that staff is currently working on “mulching that area. It’s a slow process.”
He didn’t give the board a definite time frame on when the trail would be fixed, but explained that his goal is to have it done “by the end of September.”
He added that the council will eventually need to come up with a more permanent solution for this trail as it will likely continue to wash out during spring runoff season.
One project that Lewis noted he hoped to have completed this summer, but did not, is the installation of a new dog park at Yamaguchi South.
The main reason that this project was put on hold is because the department is waiting to see what kinds of other “footprints” are in store for the park, he explained.
For example, if the park becomes the location for the ice rink/multiuse pavilion, then the department would need to know the footprint of this structure before building the dog park.
Looking ahead to 2024, Lewis explained he sees the biggest challenge as staffing for the Parks Department.
He noted that around five seasonal summer staff is ideal, but this summer, for example, only two seasonal workers are on his staff.
He added that, without more staff, the Parks Department would likely have to turn down any new big projects for next year and just focus on maintaining the already-completed projects.
He mentioned that the department cannot continue to grow the number of projects that it takes on without also growing its staff.
He said, “From my perspective, we may need to pull the reins a little bit and really concentrate on the projects that are already out there.”
“Until we can feel that we are fully staffed, and can maintain what we have, I’m not proposing any large projects out of parks and rec for next year.”