Rebuilding Lyons-One step at a time
The following is part-two of a three part series examining rebuilding efforts in Lyons. The focus is to highlight the incredible progress made while understanding the gaps that still exist for many on the long road to recovery. The Lyons Community Foundation’s Rebuild Lyons Fund is leveraged to help kick-start and augment public rebuilding efforts and to provide assistance for organizations supporting the Town of Lyons and area residents.
As we approach the two-year anniversary of the Flood next month, Lyons has a lot to be proud of in terms of accomplishments and recovery. We can look around and note the extensive cleanup, repair, rebuilding and re-settling of many of our residents’ lives. To consider the lingering impact of the flood on our access to public recreational space however, Lyons residents are beginning to get impatient. Parkland, playgrounds, athletic fields and river access were among the most decimated sections of town. The lack of access to these areas is really a sore spot and people want to know when we will get our parks back.
Before the flood, Lyons had world class recreational opportunities. In addition to the inherent enjoyment value for locals, use of these areas for camping, large-scale events and attracting visitors was critical to contributing operating revenue to the Town. Youth and adult league activities such as softball and baseball had been a Lyons staple for years with wide-spread participation. With no town fields on which to play, youth baseball/softball is only being played out of town and adult league play is not happening. While it is nice to see the progress made in sections of the parkland such as Meadow Park and the Black Bear Hole, other areas such as the playground section of Meadow, the McConnell Ponds and Bohn Park are still in a sad state of post-disaster.
The good news is that progress is happening. Meadow Park Phase 1 is complete and Phase 2 work is starting. There is a Meadow Park plan that was developed through public process and has been approved (see www.lyonsparksmp.com/ for more details). Debris clearing and construction have begun and all of Meadow Park is slated to be open by July 1 of next summer. Meadow Park Phase 2 plans include great new amenities for camping and recreational use including a climbing wall, adventure play area, a spray park, winter ice rink and a zip line. It also includes such additions as new bathrooms and showers, picnic areas and added tent sites to accommodate more critical revenue-generating seasonal camping, special event use, and sales tax revenue.
The design and development for Bohn Park, the highly utilized epicenter from everything from a playground, river access, softball and baseball fields, tennis courts, and annual large-scale events such as Lyons Outdoor Games has finally begun. As we move into continued progress, what can residents do to shape the future of Lyons Parks? Town administrator Victoria Simonsen urges people to get involved. “Planning meetings and forums for public input on Bohn Park are being held. Local citizens interested in what becomes of the parks should take the time to attend the meetings which will continue to occur over the next three months. We need resident stake holders to participate in the planning and design so that we can get our best ideas moving forward“.
What about funding? Residents understand there is a lot of federal money coming in to repair the parks, but is it enough? While there are public funds from FEMA, town insurance, and federal and state grants, they are not unlimited. There is 20 million dollars in the pipeline from grantors for Lyons parks. The initial intent of FEMA funding is to restore things to pre-flood conditions. “The parks fall under a pilot program where we have some flexibility on how we spend federal dollars, but ultimately a lot of decisions will have to be made based on priorities and eligibility“, explains Simonsen. The other issue with public funding is that it is awarded on a reimbursement basis. The Town has to front most of the money for projects and then be paid back. With a town budget the size of Lyons, it allows for work on 1 or 2 major projects at once. Nonetheless, the town currently has over 70 grants awarded totaling 80 million dollars, and the result is an incredibly complex project management scenario for work in progress and projects that will take the town several more years to see to completion.
What role can philanthropy and private funding have in terms of park redevelopment? There are rumors circulating that the Rockies are paying for the baseball fields and the Avalanche have pledged to build a hockey rink in Meadow Park. Dave Cosgrove, Parks and Rec Director, explains this is not quite true. There is some money pledged from private organizations, but it won’t quite get us where we want to go.
For example, The Rockies have pledged $80K to assist in rebuilding the ballfields. Depending on the number of fields designated to be built through input in the public planning process, that cost will far exceed the $80K donation. Estimated damages to the pre-flood baseball/softball facilities at Bohn and Vasquez fields exceed $600K. Further explains Cosgrove, “the ballfields can be replaced on a reimbursement basis should that be determined to be the will of the community through our public planning process”. The Avalanche have made no contributions to date, but there is funding to return an ice rink to Meadow Park as was determined in that portion of the plan design.
A private, philanthropic organization such as LCF can step in to enhance what is already happening and to bridge the gap between publicly sourced restoration and allowing the town to create the public spaces that are desired. There are several ideas on the table such as helping the town to redevelop the new park land obtained through 404 buyouts. The area to the west of Bohn Park can become a great new area for recreation, educational opportunities and open space, but there are not public funds available to redevelop it. LCF is positioned to contribute resources for turning a flood-ravaged piece of property into something truly beautiful and usable for public enjoyment.
Through our recovery, we have a blank slate available for creating the public areas that we want, with enhanced amenities and aesthetics that can be achieved by private support. The recent completion of the Town Hall Plaza with a native species garden and picnic/meeting space is a great example of projects that can be moved forward with assistance from private funding through such entities as the Lyons Community Foundation.
The LCF Rebuild Fund seeks to enhance and augment public funding sources that aid in the flood recovery, damage mitigation, and rebuilding projects. Since the flood, LCF’s Rebuild Lyons Fund has contributed over $1.5 million toward flood recovery here in Lyons. Donations to the Rebuild Fund are quickly dwindling; the fund balance is currently less than $7,000. The Lyons Community Foundation is committed to recovery efforts for the long haul and welcomes financial support for continued flood recovery in the greater Lyons area. For more information and/or to donate, visit www.lyonscf.org.
The article appeared in the August 20, 2015 issue of the Redstone Review. The author, Kristen Bruckner is the communications specialist for the Lyons Community Foundation. She lives in Lyons.