By Beth Dodd:
The Woodland Park City Council voted during a marathon meeting that lasted until midnight to build the town’s new aquatic center downtown in Woodland Station.
While funding to build the pool was approved by local voters in the November election, the ballot issue did not specify where it would be located. Two sites were in serious consideration at the November 20 city council meeting; Woodland Station or the Meadow Wood Sports Complex.
Multiple civic leaders and concerned citizens expressed their opinions about the decision including Cord Prettyman, Curt Grina, Bill Nein, Jon DeVaux, Al Born, Vera Egbert, Gary Crane, Gary Simon, Thomas Worley, Dana Duncan, Tony Perry, Jason Roshek, Steve Randolph, and Arden Weatherford.
Arguments in favor of the Meadow Wood location were strong. The Meadow Wood Sports Complex seemed to be a logical choice because it is already a gathering place for fitness activities and family recreation. Surveys taken of Woodland Park residents showed that the majority of people favored this location.
If the pool was to be built at Meadow Wood, a second access road into the park from the Stone Ridge subdivision would be built, reducing the impact of traffic on Evergreen Heights, which is now the only road into Meadow Wood. The pool could generate up to 120 car trips a day and would need 30 parking spaces. Additional parking is already planned for the park as part of the original master plan. The sports complex is not yet complete, and additional athletic fields are forthcoming. Building a pool there could mean sacrificing a couple of baseball diamonds or soccer fields.
Concerns were raised about deviating from the original master plan for the park. A solution to this was offered by Dana Duncan, a citizen who owns property adjacent to Meadow Wood. He generously offered to sell three or four acres to the city for a token price of $10 in order to build the aquatic center. If space in the existing park were to be used, it would cost the city nothing because they already own it. The cost of land at Woodland Station is expected to be around $100,000 before the cost of bringing utilities and other infrastructure to the spot.
Concerns were also expressed that the goal of building an aquatic center had been hijacked by the DDA and transformed into an economic incentive for downtown business owners. The people of Woodland Park voted to fund a swimming pool, not an economic stimulus package. It is being assumed that the pool will attract more people into the downtown area who will also shop and dine there, although no studies have been done to support or deny this.
“A swimming pool fits hand and glove into a multi-use recreational sports park,” claimed Curt Grina. “The goal is quality of life for our citizens. This goal is compromised if the pool goes next to the hardware store.”
Another argument in favor of building the pool at Meadow Wood was the high volume of traffic on US 24 through downtown which makes it difficult to get in and out of Woodland Station. A family fun center and lofts will be built there in 2015, already adding volume to the busy road. Congestion on the highway on summer and fall weekends and even on weekday evenings could be prohibitive.
Several arguments were made in favor of the Woodland Station location, which was chosen by a unanimous vote of the council at the end of public comments.
The supporters of the Woodland Station site claim that the potential economic benefit to the community exceeds the loss of tax money from DDA district and the cost of purchasing the land. According to City Manager David Buttery, some of the money spent to purchase the land would return to the city through repayment of the DDA’s debt to them. That money could then be used to purchase additional land to create access into Woodland Station from West Street.
In response to concerns about adding to traffic jams on US 24, supporters of Woodland Station said that the highway is already designed for high volume use and the impact would be minimal. The increase in traffic would be felt more readily in Evergreen Heights if the pool was built there.
It was also said that the pool would attract people into downtown Woodland in the winter when business typically slows down. Seeing people active in the area would inspire other people to stop there.
“The DDA is not a dangerous organization,” declared Jon DeVaux. “The DDA has brought millions of dollars in new development into town.” DeVaux also pointed out that the downtown location is closer to Woodland’s schools.
Finally, the supporters of Woodland Station argued that by building the Woodland Aquatic Center in downtown, it would benefit families and the general community while providing an economic benefit. The two goals carry equal weight and are not exclusive of each other.
“This discussion will affect the community for years to come,” said Woodland’s Mayor Neil Levy. “Most people in town are just thrilled that we will have a pool.”
The city council plans to identify a secondary location for the pool in case unforeseen problems develop with their first choice of Woodland Station, and it may be that Meadow Wood gets a second look as a possible alternate. The naming of the city council’s second choice will occur at a future meeting.