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Is a public recreation center an elitist proposition? A few community members seem to think so and are using selective, extreme financial numbers to claim that Pagosa shouldn’t have such a wonderful amenity.
The proposed rec center would be for locals and tourists at prices similar to rec centers in Durango, Cortez and other progressive communities, so it wouldn’t be elitist in terms of who is allowed to use it.
Perhaps rec center opponents wish to have community members believe that only elite, wealthy residents could afford the 1-percent sales tax increase n eeded to build the rec center. Truthfully, however, each family will continue to spend as they normally would on local purchases, with the bottom line being that they would pay 1-percent more for those purchases — that’s $4.17 a month if you spend $5,000/yr. locally. Is this too much for the substantial positive effects of a community rec center? We think not.
Opponents feel the best option is to maintain the current situation where those who can afford the time and expense to drive to Durango should simply do that and spend their recreation (and restaurant, and Wal-Mart) dollars there. Remember that the sales tax you pay to Durango helps pay for their rec center. Research commissioned by the Town Council has shown that Pagosa can responsibly afford an appropriately sized rec center, so why don’t Pagosans deserve this? Should we be satisfied with only the outdoor recreation nature provides? Seniors should realize that the center would provide a pool for activities such as water aerobics and an indoor walking/jogging track as a safer alternative to walking on icy winter roads. A rec center would provide a positive afterschool option for kids, many of whom currently have few safe, healthy afterschool options until caregivers get off work. Also, many park and rec programs (basketball, volleyball, etc.) are at maximum capacity so a community recreation center would provide much-needed space for these programs. The school gyms and the Community Center are increasingly being used for school and non-athletic events, so gym space availability is decreasing as demand for park and rec programs continues to increase.
Another major issue is that tourists contribute a large fraction of our sales tax revenue. As more competing mountain communities build similar recreation centers, visitors heading for the mountains may choose to visit those communities instead of Pagosa because they offer facilities and a progressive outlook that appeal to families with children and/or multi-generational families. Yes, visitors come here for the natural beauty and the outdoor recreation opportunities, but it’s common for them to want to use indoor recreation facilities as well. The Community Center and the Visitor’s Center staff (ask them) receive frequent requests from tourists who ask where our recreation center is. They are always amazed there isn’t one.
The upcoming ballot issue will ask voters whether a community rec center is worth a 1-percent sales tax increase for a 20-year bond. It’s worth every penny.
Gwen and Tim Taylor