Shay Castle Profile picture
Apr 27, 2022 81 tweets 12 min read Read on X
Next: Parks & Rec master plan update
Parks director Ali Rhodes: With current funding, we have some choices to make.

The dept current funding is $28.6M/year. Recommended funding is $33.3M
Parks has 22.2 full-time employees per 10,000 residents — in line with other Colorado cities of this size, but WAY above the national average of 8.5 and the avg for cities of this size (10.2)

Coloradans love them some parks & rec
Boulder spends $216 per capita on parks and rec, again in line with Colorado averages (for cities of this size) but way above national avg ($8.50) and avg for cities of this size ($101)
Cities of this size = 65,000-175,000
(Boulder is ~107,000)
Honestly, so much good stuff in this presentation. You should just look at it:…
Boulder's goal is that everyone live within a half-mile of a park that is 5 or more acres, and 1/4 mile from a playground.

It looks like we're doing pretty well on that, esp when you consider this doesn't even include open space or school playgrounds.
Here's another map showing under-served areas.
Parks & Rec has a maintenance backlog of $20.5M. That's a bit bigger than when I wrote this story in 2018(!)…
Parks & Rec has $298.4M worth of facilities (still rated in good-excellent condition).
Eric Krohngold: Most parks dept earn 60% of their funding from general fund taxes. Boulder parks & rec is at 19%, though we do have more dedicated funds than most.
It will be difficult to raise fees, Krohngold says, bc they're already seen as high. But so are our costs: We pay living wages, unlike other cities.

This results in a system that is expensive to run and maintain, he says.
As costs continue to rise, Krohngold says, parks & rec in Boulder continue to fall behind. Difficult conversations will be needed and maybe some "right-sizing of services."
Benjamin: We hear from so many dept that they have maintenance backlogs. That number is daunting. How long will it take to work through that?
Rhodes: "We won't. You're continually accruing new backlog. We'll continue to decline bc we're not achieving the recommended investment."
Benjamin: "So we're going backwards?"
Rhodes nods.
Rhodes: While we are certainly exploring other ways to raise revenue, we want to know if council support reducing some services so we can continue to fund others that are higher priority.
Speer I think asked how they will prioritize
Regina Elsner: We first ID who benefits. That determines priority, cost recovery rate and how much tax funding we provide.
Elsner: We also look at assets — What condition is it in and how bad is it if that thing fails?
Yates: Yes, you should prioritize things. Every dept does that. Community appetites change over time. You'll have to do the best you can.

We've outsourced a lot of programs over the years, and that let's the market decide what's valuable. That's a good way to do it.
Yates: "Like everything else the city does, we do have to run this like a business and recognize that we are serving customers. With some equity exceptions," we should outsource what we can, but keep doing scholarships for those in need.
Wallach also agrees with prioritization. Lists all the other dept that are asking for more money.

"Our desires are insatiable and our finances are limited."
Benajamin, too: "You have to be creative. I love the entrepreneurialism. ... It's unfortunate we have to be entrepreneurial" just to cover our costs and meet our needs, but I appreciate it "in these times."
Specifically, staff is recommending that any adult programs/services are charged to cover the cost, or maybe even cost-plus (does not apply to low-income or seniors)
For example, Rhodes says, it costs $10 for a visit to a rec center (operationally) but the city only charges $9. They'd like to get that to $10 and possibly higher, if the market will bear it.
Services for low-income folks and those with disabilities won't be expanded unless some alternative funding can be found, and subsidies for older adults and youth may change.

"We're not going to be able to do more for these priority populations without additional funding."
(That was Rhodes, btw.)
Friend: The age-based subsidy with no income requirements is strange to me, given how expensive it is to buy into Boulder. My daughter is a new nurse and would need the subsidy more than my mom who is a retired nurse.
Seniors currently get 25% discount on rec pass.

Winer: I'd like to see that go down to 20% or even 15%
7% of visitors to rec center are paying full senior rate (with the automatic subsidy) so it won't save us much $$, Rhodes says.
Folkerts: If we OK a higher adult drop-in rate for the rec center, what's the timeline for raising those fees?

Jackson Hite: We usually increase it every 2 years, so 2023 will be the next increase to get closer to cost recovery.
Rhodes: Some ways we're looking at raising $$ is raising our fees for non-residents, allowing commercial use in our parks and "social entrepreneurship" — which I think means public/private partnerships like at the Rez or golf course.
Friend: I support and I assume you'll be creative with it.
Elmer, Friend's cat: Meow
Wallach: "I support, but I would ask you to be careful about how you commercialize our parks."
Joseph: What is the definition of resident vs. non?
Rhodes: If you live or work in the city of Boulder, you can get a resident rate. We're looking at "healthy increases" for facilities we know ppl are willing to pay, like Scott Carpenter pool.
Non-residents pay 25% more. During the pandemic, the pool cost 50% more for non-residents, and use did not change, Rhodes says.
Wallach made a joke about not wanting a Taco Bell in North Boulder Park, which I didn't tweet bc I didn't want ppl to take it out of context, but now it's become the Taco Bell Scenario.
Rhodes reminds us all that restaurants are only allowed at the Rez, golf course and Valmont, but the parks board AND council has to approve any lease.

So no Taco Bell in North Boulder Park. just to be clear.
Wallach likes his little jokes.
But, as Benjamin notes, a one-day taco FEST is a great thing for a park.

We are looking at events (carefully and thoughtfully), Rhodes says.
Winer: "It looks like everybody is standing with you here."

To recap:
Services and subsidies might be cut, fees might go up, and the dept will pursue revenue-raising ideas
I know that sounds drastic, but we're really talking about small things over a long time. I mean, the increase in drop-in rec center fees they were talking about is not even $1 by next year.
Anyway, back to the plan. There's a whole list of projects and such on slides 18-20. Recommend checking it out.…
Something I'd heard a rumor on but not confirmed is that the SoBo Rec Center may close (at some point). If Parks & rec doesn't get more $$, it very well might. It's old and needs replacing or seriously upgraded.
Yates: We're gonna have to find funding to replace that.
Yates makes the case that the "Vision" level of master plans should not exist, bc it's never stuff that we can do. (In this particular case, designing and building a new South Boulder rec center.)
Friend invites a Parks board member up to share, if he so chooses.

Chuck Brock: There needs to be more inter-departmental communication and strategy about meeting our community goals.
I think we're actually done early. Truly a gift.
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OK, Boulder Twitter peeps: I'm adding more tweets to Tuesday's parks & rec discussion.

I was gonna do a whole other story, but that would mean repeating a lot of stuff, and that's just not efficient.
The TL;DR is: Parks & Rec has a sizable and growing maintenance backlog. So, without more $$ from the city (tricky, since so many dept have similar backlogs) they have to shift some services and raise fees to start and chip away at maintenance needs.
I spoke with director Ali Rhodes. Here, we're gonna dive into that a bit more.
First off, as reported Tuesday, current dept funding is $28.6M. Staff's presentation put "recommended" funding at $33.3M — a $4.7M increase.

That's nearly all for maintenance and capital expenditures.
"There’s sidewalks and tennis courts across the system we could and should maintain better," Rhodes said.

So that's maintenance — routine upkeep.

Capital would be, like, refinishing the surface of a tennis court "so there’s not cracks and stuff."
The rest of extra funding — about $1M — "is about supporting equity in recreation," Rhodes said.

"There are a million ways" for people with enough $$ to pursue fitness, health and recreation. The city's role, as Rhode sees it, is to "fill gaps."
That is, for populations that *don't* have as many option, or can't afford the private sector yoga studios, gyms, pools, country clubs, etc.

Through surveying, the community has told us what they think those populations are: youth, low-income, folks with disabilities, etc.
To that end, fees for using the city rec centers for adults who *don't* belong to any of these groups will prob increase in 2023, from $9 for a drop-in to $10.

All other fees will adjust accordingly.
"The adult drop-in fee is the base fee upon which all other fees are built," Rhodes said. So youth get a 40% discount; older adults get a 25% discount. (Low-income folks get in for free... link to apply is higher up in the thread)
Those discounts (for youth and older adults) might be adjusted as well, as discussed Tuesday.
More detail will come through the 2023 budget process.
Rhodes: "What we’ll probably have to do is, we’re gonna ask for our General Fund subsidy to increase. If we get that, here’s what the fees will be. If we don’t get that, here’s what the fees will be."
Also TBD: More details on what service cuts might look like.

Council's discussion mostly focused on "outsourcing" things to the private sector, but Rhodes gave a different example of streamlining the city has already done.
Parks & Rec took 8 trashcans out of small pocket parks, located in neighborhoods. A lot of staff time and $$ is spent on waste removal, Rhodes said, and a lot of the waste in this case was neighbors tossing bags of dog poop on their daily walks.
Which, yay neighbors for using trash receptacles! But when they're 5 min from home, Rhodes said, the could just take it home.

"It saved us 5 hrs a week and the incremental cost of bags."
So it sucks for neighbors, but it frees up time and $$ to do trash pickup at bigger and more well-used parks like Eben G. Fine, which need waste removal multiple times a day.
Rhodes: "That’s an example of right-sizing our service. Ideally we’re gonna right-size the service level so that those things are most important to community and impact the most people" still get done.
One more note about rec center fee increases that I forgot... those are typically done every 2 years. They were last adjusted in 2020 — before the pandemic. They did NOT increase in 2022, bc of the pandemic.

So 2023 hikes are actually routine.
But on Tuesday, as discussed above, council gave the OK for continued prioritization in this way: Charging non-low-income adults enough to cover costs or maybe even subsidize services for priority populations.
Anyway, back to service cuts.

I asked Rhodes about one particular item of interest: Replacing the South Boulder Rec Center, which is current unfunded. But that does NOT mean it is closing, she said.
Rhodes: "That is not our plan. We are not trying to close that building. There is not a decision to implode the building and not replace this."
That being said, it *does* need replaced — the boiler caused a flood in December and the gym had to close — and there is of yet no $$ to do so.

As we've seen with fire station replacements, building new facilities in Boulder is EXPENSIVE AF.…
Rhodes: "The truth is the building is failing. It’s not true that it’s definitely not going to be replaced. I’m going to advocate for its replacement and funding for it. But the truth is it’s not funded" — yet.
Yet is the key word. Parks is exploring funding options, and ways to raise more revenue at the SoBo Rec Center itself. It's woefully out of date — Rhodes called it a "1973 Klingon war ship" — but that thankfully means it has under-utilized spaces that can be repurposed.
"Our plan is to bring some activity to the building," Rhodes said.

And repairs are planned: "We’re gonna fix the gym this summer, we’re gonna fix the pool."
Our last point is a continuation of that last theme — the parks dept attempt to raise revenue in creative ways through things like public-private partnerships, or event spaces (one of the ideas for SoBo Rec Center).
Staff called it "social entrepreneurship," which Rhodes explained thusly (bc I hate jargon): "Generating revenue for good, not to make profit. Anytime we can generate revenue in excess of cost, that can help fund community benefit" like programs, services and discounted fees.
Parks also looking at other ways to raise revenue, like filling a long-vacant position to pursue grants and other philanthropic funding.
"The sky is not falling," Rhodes said.
So yes, things are changing, but don't panic, and maybe try not to be a dick about it when your neighborhood park no longer has a trash can? Maybe just... carry your dog poop home, or (god forbid) help pick up litter.

Which brings me to the last point....
How to help:
- Volunteer (Rhodes)
- Don't be a jerk (me)…
And this last one is from Rhodes: The city needs lifeguards, desperately. They have 80-some right now, but need ~150 for full service.

"How many jobs we fill will determine how much fun we have this summer," Rhodes said.
That's it for this update. Plan on more of these in the future so I can focus my time on writing new stuff.

Happy Thursday!
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More from @shayshinecastle

Oct 6, 2023
We've still got one more item: A nod of 5 (informal vote) on safe outdoor spaces
Council is confused (and so am I) about whether it's directing staff to actually DO one, or just to keep exploring the potential.
Friend clears things up: Let's propose a pilot for a 25-person sanctioned encampment, as bare bones as it can be done (but with 24/7 staff and services). To be paid for with $$ not going to the day center that is not happening this year.
Read 17 tweets
Oct 5, 2023
I'm at Boulder City Counicl because it's BUDGET NIGHT!!
Folkerts: More $$ for parks + rec, paid for by repurposing $$ for encampment removals

Friend + Winer: More $$ for potholes /road maintenance. They did not ID a funding source.
Winer also asked for more $$ for underpass lighting. Again, no suggestion where it's coming from.
Speer: More $$ for emergency assistance, shelters and encampment cleaning (not removal) + public bathrooms, paid for by repurposing $$ for encampment removals.

Also more $$ for community connectors, paid for by cutting council's travel budget
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Sep 29, 2023
I have so little energy for this homelessness update. I'll tweet what's new and in addition to this story:…
"Homelessness is on the rise, particularly unsheltered homelessness," Megan Newton says. Colorado has the 14th highest rate of homelessness in the U.S. 18 homeless people per 1,000 residents.
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Sep 29, 2023
Next: Boulder Police quarterly update…
We just did the Reimagining Policing Plan, so I'm not sure how much of this will be new. But I'll tweet what is.
Crime up in 2023: violent and property crimes
Less robberies, tho, Chief Herold says. And fewer car thefts.

"Society crimes" or quality of life, like drugs, are up.
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Sep 28, 2023
Hey, all. I'm watching the Boulder City Council study session tonight. We've got updates from the municipal court, Boulder Police Dept and a discussion of homeless services.
I'll tweet what I can; it's a lot of info. All these issues are big topics in the upcoming election, so prob a good meeting to pay attention to.
First up: Our quarterly update from the municipal court. It looks like we're covering staffing and structural changes to the court (ho-hum) and then diversion programs for CU students and unhoused individuals.…
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Sep 22, 2023
Benjamin: On Monday, county commissioners gave $700K to Boulder Shelter for the Homeless to expand services.

(City of Boulder gave $300K; City of Longmont gave $50K)
He's discussing a letter to county commissioners asking that, if the affordable housing tax on this year's ballot passes, the county set aside $$ for housing + services specifically for homelessness.
City council has to give an informal vote (called a Nod of Five) in order to send the letter on its behalf.
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