Dear Editor:

I’ve been part of a task force working with town councilor Kathie Lattin, Tom Carosello of Pagosa Springs parks and rec, Christine Funk of the Friends of Reservoir Hill and Mark Weiler to explore the feasibility of a town recreation center south of Yamaguchi Park.

After looking at the costs, benefits, financing, potential revenue sources and a study of yearly operating costs, I believe now is exactly right time to build the recreation center. Here’s why:

1. This is a project that originated from a community recreation survey a few years ago. This is our idea. It is something we wanted.

2. The town now has more than a year’s worth of operating budget in reserves.

3. Interest rates are at historic lows so our financing costs will be much lower than many other towns which invested in recreation centers when interest rates were higher.

4. We are proposing to finance it with a penny town sales tax that, even without assuming any sales tax growth from current levels, will allow us to pay debt service on the bond and have half or more of the annual operating costs covered too. Even better, much of our sales tax is paid by tourists. Even with the penny sales tax, our overall sales tax rate is relatively low compared to other mountain communities.

5. There is ample opportunity to create other revenue streams to offset and maybe even cover the remaining annual operating costs, for example, programs, memberships for both town and county residents and sports leagues.

6. The land where the sewage treatment plant sits along the San Juan River will be reclaimed once the sewer line to PAWSD is completed, so the building site is virtually free. What’s more, it is near Yamaguchi Park, the San Juan River and the Pagosa Springs High School. There is also room for future expansion or other recreation facilities.

7. Beyond the value of the community amenity to locals, especially families, tourists will also be happy to pay to use the facility. In fact, they already ask where our recreation center is!

8. The recreation center will also make our community healthier.

We have long needed a new approach to big community initiatives that wins broad-based support in the early, exploration phases. Kudos to Kathie Lattin for trying a new approach that is both bottom up and top down.

I believe that the parks and recreation systems represent a woven fabric that connects our community. The fabric of parks and recreation is also woven into economic value and provides a substantial return on investment for the community in the form of increased property tax, retention of our youth, tourism, health care savings and the by attracting entrepreneurs and others from outside, drawn to our active lifestyle and recreation amenities.

I believe we need a project that is not designed just for tourists, but to provide a better quality of life and health for our citizens. This is true community development.

Muriel Eason

This story was posted on December 5, 2013.