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Repairs to flood-damaged parks will take months to complete

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By Sandy Barnes

Extensive damage to Lair O’ the Bear and other Jeffco Open Space parks caused by recent flooding will take several months to repair, said Stanton LaBreche, Jeffco parks operations manager.

During his presentation to the Jeffco Open Space Advisory Committee last Thursday night, LaBreche said that heavily damaged parks in the system will be closed until the first or second quarter of 2014.

In addition to Lair O’ the Bear in Bear Creek Canyon, trails at Apex and White Ranch parks are closed indefinitely.

When asked about an estimated date for reopening the parks, LaBreche said, “We don’t have anything to hang our hats on.”

Many of the trails in the parks are completely washed out and will need to be re-routed, he said.

“One of the things that needed to be done quickly was assessment of the damage,” said LaBreche.

In order to apply for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a damage estimate was required, he said. After reviewing the damaged parks, staff came up with a rough estimate of $605,000. The actual cost of the repairs could go beyond that amount, said LaBreche.

In addition to potential help from FEMA, Great Outdoors Colorado is considering a special grant program for flood-damaged parks, said Tom Hoby, Jeffco’s director of Parks and Open Space.

“You have to factor in what may come from FEMA,” Hoby remarked.

With help from volunteers, some minor repair work has begun in Jeffco parks, including Lair o’ the Bear and Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, LaBreche said.

More than 600 residents have volunteered to help with flood recovery repairs, he said.

“Major damage we haven’t tackled,” LaBreche pointed out.

Open Space Advisory Committee member Rebecca Watson asked whether there is any risk to people hiking in parks where trails are open.

LaBreche said he is working with geologists to ensure that the accessible trails are safe.

Responding to another board member’s question about residents’ compliance with park closures, LaBreche said there is — to some degree.

“We have a lot of folks with curiosity,” said Hoby.

Open-space acquisitions

At the beginning of the Oct. 3 meeting, Hoby announced that Jeffco Open Space is in the process of acquiring two properties totaling 800 acres from the State Land Board.

The smaller Deer Creek parcel, which is 160 acres in size, is adjacent to Hildebrand Ranch Park near C-470 and Wadsworth Boulevard.

Blue Mountain in Coal Creek Canyon is the larger 640-acre property slated for transfer to Jeffco Open Space through a bid process.

“That’s pretty special,” said Hoby.

The minimum bid for the two parcels is $3 million for Jeffco, he said.

“Now it’s a matter of going through due diligence,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

During her presentation, Amy Ito, Jeffco’s park planning and construction manager, talked about ways to streamline the real estate process for the county.

By amending county policy to a one-step process, staff could work more efficiently with landowners, she said.

“There are times when the advisory committee has authorized negotiations for staff to proceed, only to find out that there is no willing seller, or that the terms are very far apart,” Ito said in her report.

Hoby said that staff would work with the county attorney’s office to find alternatives to the current real estate policy.

Changing the meeting room

To make the Ponderosa meeting room more user-friendly for groups that use it, Hoby suggested to advisory committee members that it be redesigned and upgraded.

“We need a flexible space,” he said.

The space is the only meeting room in the building and is frequently used by various groups in addition to the Open Space Advisory Committee, Hoby noted.

The permanent wooden furniture on a raised level, where the committee sits, could be removed to open up the meeting room, Hoby said.  In its place portable tables would be brought in, along with stackable chairs, he explained.

Concurrent with this change would be replacement of the ineffective recoding and AV systems with better equipment, Hoby said.

The cost of the project would be approximately $60,000 and would be shared by other occupants in the Open Space building, he said.

Advisory board member Jan Wilkins expressed concern about the members being placed on the same level as the audience with the new configuration.

“I am concerned about further marginalizing OSAC,” she remarked.

Other board members suggested the possibility of placing risers in the room on which members could place their chairs to give them better visibility and separation from the audience.

However, Hoby said chairs on rollers might be a hazard for them, if placed on risers.

Advisory committee members are on track for using iPads during meetings beginning in November. To save costs, the iPads will have only wi-fi capability.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.