Durango, CO: The city’s Parks and Recreation Department has updated a study on the condition of various recreation facilities to help focus on high-priority items, which include replacing the two ski tow ropes at Chapman Hill and potentially relocating the Chapman Ice Rink as well as Durango Gymnastics.
An initial study was presented to City Council in February that assessed the conditions of city park amenities and equipment, ranging from park restrooms to sidewalks and turf. A 20-year schedule was then created to identify maintenance needs and a schedule of costs. The July update, which will be presented to council at its Aug. 15 study session, included the same information for Chapman Ski Hill and Ice Rink, Lake Nighthorse, Durango Gymnastics, Moore Park Shop (cemetery) and the Durango Recreation Center.
City staff is addressing the maintenance and conditions of open space, natural lands and the cemetery in other planning efforts.
Several facility amenities and equipment were identified in the July report as in “poor” or “very poor” condition. The study noted 200 key amenities that help support the six facilities in question, and “most of these amenities have exceeded their life expectancy, or will reach it in the next five to ten years.”
The estimated cost to fix the “very poor” items is $5.2 million. A “very poor” item is one where the amenity is failing, becoming a safety hazard, requires constant repair and is recommended for replacement within one year.
Recommendations were based on safety priorities, ongoing supply chain issues (which continue from the COVID pandemic), and future planning purposes.
According to the report:
Chapman Hill Ice Rink (24 years old)
- “The usage at this type of facility is much more intense than other recreational facilities” because of the type of equipment used, according to the report. “Unfortunately, there are structural challenges with this current site that cannot be remedied, and the city may be better served in the long term to explore a more suitable location.” The ice rink was built above an active underground spring, which causes ongoing issues with the soils, according to the report. Staff is recommending the facility be maintained at a “fair” condition until the rink’s future can be determined. The report gave a “very poor” rating to the rink’s roof, ice melt pit, rubber flooring and the exterior in general.
Chapman Hill Ski Area (57 years old)
- Most of the amenities at the ski area were rated either “poor” or “very poor,” according to the report. “The three most critical elements at the ski hill are scheduled for replacement soon including the overhead lighting, tow rope systems and the grooming machine,” according to the report. “Once complete, this overall facility will be in excellent condition and serve the community for decades to come." The tow ropes are currently rated as “very poor” condition. Equipment for the big tow was originally utilized for training purposes during World War II at Camp Hale, near Leadville. The report listed “very poor” ratings for the lighting, both rope tows and the lift shacks. The city's new citizen-driven Financial Advisory board recommended at its Aug. 10 meeting that $3 million be spent for Chapman Hill improvements.
Durango Gymnastics Center (46 years old)
- “Located within the industrial area of BODO, the building is in need of significant roofing repairs, and is not easily accessible for customers,” according to the report. “The roof leaks in multiple locations throughout the gym area.” Staff is recommending evaluating relocating the facility, but also working with an engineer and roofing contractor to address the roof issues in the meantime. The city purchased and remodeled the building in 2016 to provide dedicated space for its gymnastics program, which was formerly conducted at the Mason Center and is now being used for storage.
Recreation Center (21 years old)
- The 2001-constructed building is exceptionally maintained, according to the report, but usage continues to increase year, and it is a heavily used facility. “Many of the amenities within the building will reach their life expectancy within the next 10 years,” according to the report. A reserve financial account is recommended to save funds needed to pay for the repair or replacement of major equipment.
Lake Nighthorse (opened to the public in 2018)
- “This recreation area is very well maintained and managed. The most visible failure at the site is the deterioration of the main road,” according to the report, but limited parking can cause traffic to back up on County Road 210, and beach erosion is significant. A federal grant is expected to pay for 80% of the road’s replacement in 2026, according to the report, and the city is partnering with the Bureau of Reclamation to identify solutions to beach erosion, a new entrance station and a decontamination unit for boats.
Moore Park Shop (three years old)
- The shop is located at Greenmount Cemetery and is a base of operations for the city’s park, natural lands, forestry and cemetery divisions. A new shop was built in 2020 but there is a lack of secure storage for large equipment. There are old, uninsulated storage sheds in very poor condition and are recommended to be demolished because they are unsafe. Staff recommends replacing the existing storage sheds.
Although the study pointed out areas in need of upgrades, it also pointed out “The residents of Durango are fortunate to have a multitude of recreational opportunities including dozens of municipal parks, miles and miles of scenic trails – both developed and natural, and extensive indoor recreation programs. The availability of the Chapman Ski Hill within the city limits and Lake Nighthorse Recreation Area within minutes from downtown, make Durango one of the greatest recreation communities in this region.”
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