From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 1 - January 3, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Input wanted on expanding town park

by Alecia Warren

Little would appear contentious about the Town of Pinedale’s consideration of expanding Boyd Skinner Park, the popular amenity where locals fill sunny days picnicking and romping with toddlers on the playground.

But with the possibility of extending the small recreation area by 18 acres, which could cost up to $2 million, also comes the more important question of whether the town will purchase the additional property with taxpayers’ money.

The proposed addition to Boyd Skinner Park, commonly called the Town Park, would be comprised primarily of wetlands, and would preserve wildlife habitats, provide a fishing pond and new pathways connecting to the town.

To weigh public opinion into its deliberations, the Pinedale Town Council will soon release a survey for locals to suggest how they would like to see such a project financed. “It’s improbable that the town is going to supply all funds for the extension — as the survey says, this doesn’t indicate the Town Council will take any action at all,” said Mayor’s Assistant Lauren McKeever, though the survey does include the town’s complete purchase of the property as a choice. “We’re just trying to gauge information. We want to know if citizens of the town don’t support this at all, or if they support it up to a certain point.”

There are other options besides the town covering the entire bill. The most appealing alternative, said Town Council member Gary Heuck, involves spending $2 million on a new water and sewer system for the town, then asking the state to match that money with federal grants to fund the park extension. “I’m not saying we’ll definitely get (the federal grants) — we may not,” Heuck said. “But all the times we’ve applied in the past, the state’s usually given us what we asked for.”

Even if the state doesn’t match the town expenditures, Heuck said, infrastructure should come before recreation.

“We’ve got plenty of parks in this town per capita per person,” he said. The new park area isn’t necessarily worthy of a park, he said, as much of the land would occupy flood plains and prohibit construction of facilities like playgrounds.

Absorbing the 18 acres into the park would permanently protect the open space from future development, however, including the Pine Creek Estates subdivision that James E. Bowles has pushed to construct in the area.

Neither Bowles nor spokespeople for Rio Verde Engineering, the development firm representing Bowles, were available for comment.

Both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council have rejected proposals for the Estates, which would occupy 792,35957 square feet along Pine Creek and subdivide into 12 residential lots. But that doesn’t guarantee that Bowles won’t try again, said Town Council member Nylla Kunard.

“I know sections of the town that will write in and say ‘yes,’ (to the park extension) because those sections of town would really like to see the area not developed,” said Kunard, who has voiced concern that development south of the park might cause flooding. But others living on streets that need fixing might prefer to see town money spent on filling potholes, she said.

“I think the area would be a beautiful addition, but we have so much else that needs to be done,” she said. “To me, it isn’t a priority.”

Town Council member Dave Hohl, however, argued that it should be. Parks are a part of the town infrastructure, too, he said, and should be included in the broad spectrum of services that the Council provides the community.

“If the town doesn’t feel (the park extension) is important enough to put appropriated money into, no one else will think it’s important enough, either,” Hohl said. “To me, (the extension) should be multi-funded, but it’s the town’s obligation to put money into this and get the ball rolling and get others to do the same.”

Preserving the wetlands south of the current park would also sustain a broad variety of wildlife that would draw tourists for years, he said.

“This is a very unique situation where we can have all kinds of wildlife populations right in town, where we can see them every day,” he said. “And the thing about the park is that right now is when we have the opportunity to save it. Once it’s developed, the suitability for a park is gone.”

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