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Proposed budget for Jeffco Open Space includes improvements to Evergreen parks

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By Sandy Barnes

Improvements and repairs to Evergreen parks are among capital projects included in the proposed $31 million 2015 budget for Jefferson County Open Space.
Don Klima, administration and education services manager for Jeffco Open Space, and other staff members presented the proposed budget to the advisory committee at the July 10 meeting. Nearly $6 million is slated for capital improvements. Those in the Evergreen area include:
• $150,000 for restroom replacement and improvements to the west trailhead at Mount Falcon Park in Indian Hills,
• $60,000 to complete flood repair damage at Lair O’ the Bear Park,
• $35,000 for roof and building repairs to five buildings at the Hiwan Homestead Museum,
• $350,000 in trailhead connections and improvements at Matthews-Winters Park,
• $450,000 for trailhead and restroom replacement at Crown Hill Park,
• $60,000 to redesign the trailhead and parking area at the Elk Meadow Dog Off-leash Park, and
• $40,000 for a plan to improve the Pioneer Trail at Elk Meadow Park.
The largest capital expense in the 2015 budget proposal is $4.2 million for the Jeffco portion of the Peaks to Plains Trail construction in Clear Creek Canyon. The extensive project is creating a 6-mile recreational corridor along Clear Creek for bicyclists and hikers
“My impression of this project is that it is very ambitious but very worthwhile,” said Wayne Forman, chair of the Jeffco Open Space Advisory Committee.
Open space staff will present the 2015 budget proposal to the advisory committee again in August for a final review. The Board of County Commissioners will make the final decision on the open space budget in the coming months.

New staff
The budget proposal includes line items to hire additional open space staff in 2015, including a fulltime park ranger with an annual salary of $51,000. The total request for the park ranger is $101,352, an amount that includes nearly $19,000 in benefits, and $32,400 for an additional park vehicle and equipment. Jeffco Open Space currently has 11 fulltime park rangers.
Also in the proposed budget is an allocation for another real estate specialist whose salary would be $58,000 plus $19,000 in benefits. The person hired for the new position would focus on resolving issues with property management such as historic buildings and encroachments on open space lands.
The additional real estate specialist also would make it possible to bring real estate management into one unified group, said Tom Hoby, Jeffco Open Space director.

Budget details
The cost of hiring additional staff would be funded through a projected 3 percent increase in revenue in 2015, said Klima. More than $28 million in anticipated revenue for Jeffco Open Space is generated by a .5 percent county sales tax. Other revenue sources are generated through grants and through a .05 percent allocation from the $25.5 million fund balance in the department.
Approximately 35 percent of the proposed 2015 budget is directed toward operational expenses. Nineteen percent is earmarked for parks development, and 42 percent is used to pay bond debt service, which includes costs associated with land acquisitions for cities and districts in Jeffco.
The 2015 budget also includes $1.22 million for local grants to park districts. An additional $400,000 for state lottery proceeds would add to funding available for grants.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.