South Suburban looks to future of parks

District publishes first-ever comprehensive master plan

Posted 7/25/17

South Suburban Parks and Recreation District is looking to the future to provide the antidote to the increasingly sedentary and crowded lifestyle of the south metro suburbs.

The district administers public parks, recreation centers and sports …

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South Suburban looks to future of parks

District publishes first-ever comprehensive master plan

Posted

South Suburban Parks and Recreation District is looking to the future to provide the antidote to the increasingly sedentary and crowded lifestyle of the south metro suburbs.

The district administers public parks, recreation centers and sports leagues across a wide area that includes Littleton, Sheridan, Centennial, Lone Tree, Bow Mar and Columbine Valley. The district recently published its first-ever comprehensive districtwide master plan, a document that takes stock of the district’s resources and amenities and provides guidance for the future.

So far, things are looking good, said Brett Collins, South Suburban’s director of planning and development. 

“What we found is that overall people are happy with the program offerings, they like the facilities, they like the parks and trails,” Collins said. “Our users have lots of passion. Compared to much of the Front Range, we have an above-average level of service, and we have more parkland and trail offerings.”

Collins said the master plan also helped clarify the challenges faced by the 58-year-old district, with parks and recreation facilities aging.  

Many facilities and programs are often operating at full capacity, the report says. Between budget year 2013-14 and 2015-16, batting cage rentals climbed 58 percent, fitness class registration was up 38 percent and adult hockey increased from 41 teams to 52. The district anticipates the population within its boundaries will grow by nearly 10,000 by 2021. Currently, the master plan says, 12 percent of children in the district get no regular physical activity.

The report identifies 10 “opportunities” for how to allocate funds and resources in coming years, based on responses from focus groups and surveys:

• Improve recreation facilities

• Renovate or construct new indoor athletic fields

• Expand nature recreation opportunities

• Increase adult activity program offerings

• Conserve open space and water resources

• Upgrade aquatic facilities

• Improve community parks and multipurpose fields

• Renew playgrounds

• Increase sustainable energy

• Improve trail connections and signage

Collins said the district’s resources were strained during the Great Recession, and many of the opportunity areas fell by the wayside. With the economy on better footing, the district anticipates being able to work on delayed projects.

Still, funding is always an issue, Collins said. The district’s funds come from property taxes, and Collins said the district has been examining the idea of extending some of its mill levies to become permanent, and extending existing bond debt to fund additional projects and address deferred maintenance.

A survey of South Suburban’s facilities found that while most are in at least fair condition, several fell short. “Poor” ratings were given to the Family Sports Dome, Harlow Park Outdoor Pool, Littleton Golf and Tennis Center, Lone Tree Golf Clubhouse and Hotel, Sheridan Recreation Center and an administration building and service center. Collins said the poor ratings often reflect roof or HVAC problems.

South Suburban would also like to improve its open space offerings, Collins said, though that may prove tough.

“There are very few opportunities to acquire open space land in the district,” Collins said. “It’s pretty landlocked at this point. There’s just so much development, and no big parcels available.”

The district would also like to continue its efforts toward sustainable and renewable energy, Collins said. The master plan indicates the district has already made headway, with energy use and water consumption down across the district.

Other goals include helping children connect with nature with an increased focus on more rugged parkland, such as in Littleton’s Lee Gulch and Creekside Experience parks.

“That’s been a movement in the last four or five years,” Collins said. “People like to see their kids go play in a stream, or in rocks, or walk across logs rather than the more rigid play equipment. It helps get them away from phones and iPads and so on.”

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