Park district staff proposes holding fewer events at Evergreen Lake

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By Sandy Barnes

In response to residents' concerns about traffic congestion around Evergreen Lake Park, park district staff has suggested that some events be moved from the popular venue to other locations in the district.
The Big Chili Cook-off, which typically draws thousands of people to the Lake Park each September, is among events on the list for possible relocation.
This year the Lake Park has experienced record usage, Scott Robson, executive director of the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, said in a memo to EPRD board members. In 2013 there have been  25 special events, more than 100 weddings at the Lake House and high daily use of the lake related to boating, fishing, hiking and ice skating, he noted.
While the park district does not have the authority to limit recreational uses of the lake, the number of large special events that take place there can be reduced, Robson said.
Some events such as Skate the Lake obviously couldn't be moved from the Lake Park, Robson said. However, summer concerts could be spread out within the district, he said.
During the discussion of lake usage at the Sept. 23 EPRD meeting, board member Janet Heck Doyle said other parks in the district also need consideration.
"This discussion is designed to talk about all of the parks," she remarked.
Board member Kit Darrow agreed that all the parks in the district should be included in an assessment of usage.
The Lake Park is the only district venue where there are consistent problems with high usage and traffic, according to Robson's memo.
At previous park district board meetings, business owners and residents near the Lake Park have complained about people illegally parking along Upper Bear Creek Road and at the Lakepoint Center during events.
"The parking is the issue," said Lake House supervisor Brad Bednar. "Weekends are always difficult."
"Brad and I have been talking with the Jeffco sheriff about parking issues," said Robson.
"I'd like us to take a look at park use," said board member Mark Footer, who has a real estate business at Lakepoint.
Footer also said the board should examine the park district's practice of subsidizing many of the nonprofit events.
"We've underwritten and subsidized so many of these activities," he said. "If we're trying to use the park responsibly, we shouldn't be underwriting these events."
Many of the 37 to 39 annual special events that take place in the park district are sponsored by nonprofits, Robson said.
As the number and size of events have grown, the amount of staff time required to help with them also has increased, he added.
"Also, there are assumptions out there," Robson said. "We are finding ourselves pressed to live up to these expectations. We need to draw a cleaner line between who we are and the event organizers."
While the park staff have waived some fees in the past for nonprofit events, that practice will most likely change, said Robson. In the future, the district would charge for tent rentals and for staff time, he said.
"We would like to get away from waiving fees," Robson said.
Staff need to be compensated for the time at events, he added.
"If you're going to run a six-hour event, you need to pay a staff person," said Robson.
"It's a difficult balance, because some of these events are cherished," Darrow said. "We don't want to eliminate the community events."
"Whether any given event moves or not, it shouldn't be put on the district's shoulders to prop up that event," replied Robson.
Before making a decision about relocating events from the Lake Park, Robson suggested holding community meetings, to which the Sheriff's Office and Evergreen Fire/Rescue would be invited.
"We'll sit down with key organizers," he said.
"Why do the events exist?" asked Footer. "Why do we do any of them?"
"As a Colorado special district, we are the stewards of public land," said Robson. "People come to us, and we're trying to make decisions."


Downtown business leaders voice support for district

Downtown Evergreen business owners and organizations flocked to the Sept. 23 park district board meeting to express their support for the park district, particularly at Evergreen Lake.
"We would like to thank EPRD for supporting the local economy," said Dean Dalvit, representing the Downtown Evergreen Economic District. "I would like to encourage the board to consider ways to keep the welcome mat out. … We would be happy to be a willing partner of EPRD."
Lin Browning, president of the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce, expressed similar sentiments.
While responding to criticism about use of Evergreen Lake Park, Janice Stutters of Seasonally Yours said that visitors to Evergreen are vital for downtown businesses.
"Our base of Evergreen stays healthy as long as visitors come," she said.
Ron Issacson, coordinator of a group focused on promoting Evergreen, said the community was founded to provide a place for Denver residents to come and recreate.
"We don't have the right to keep other people away," he said.
"I do applaud what is going on at the lake," said John Erlandson, a local musician. "There does need to be some tempering of it," he remarked.
"It's a safety issue on Upper Bear Road," said Mark Footer, EPRD board member and owner of Intero Real Estate Services at the Lakepoint Center.
Rachel Emmer, representing both the DEED board and Evergreen's Alliance for Sustainability, also expressed her support for events in the park district. She suggested seeking creative solutions to parking and related issues to ease congestion at parks.
"I would like to see all the organizations look for some solutions to parking issues," Stutters later said. It's going to take the cooperation of all of them."
She also said that perhaps no-parking signs could be posted along Upper Bear Creek Road to deter illegal parking.
"I just want to see all the entities work together to make Evergreen a popular place to come," said Stutters.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.