From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 35 - 4/27/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

$492K of Funding Requests to Rec Board
Diversity of needs may require "Recreation Master Plan"
by Rob Shaul

The Sublette County Recreation Board received $492,446 worth of funding requests at its two budget hearings this spring. Topping the list was a $295,000 request from the Pinedale Hockey Association for a roof to cover the Pinedale hockey rink. Another $79,000 has been requested for walking paths at both ends of the county, $18,000 for a chemical storage building at the Pinedale golf course, and over $22,000 for playground equipment at the Pinedale Learning Center.

Monday, we sat down with Recreation Board Chairman Dave Bell of Pinedale to discuss these requests, and the process the Rec Board goes through to decide what gets funded. Mr. Bell has been a member of the Recreation Board for six years. He is in his second year as Chairman.

Basic Process

This year, the nine-member recreation board held two hearings, one at each end of the county in March and April, to receive requests for funding.

During the hearings, board members question the individuals and groups requesting funding about the merit of their projects. Mr. Bell says common Board questions include how much money for the project has been raised locally, how long the project has been in place or is expected to last and how broad support or participation in the project is.

In May the Rec Board will meet and hammer which projects it will recommend to the County Commissioners for funding.

The county can fund recreation up to 1/2 of a mil year, or approximately $150,000. However, Mr. Bell says he and the Rec Board always start at zero and don't think they necessarily need to spend an entire 1/2 mil each year if the requested projects don't merit the use of county tax dollars.

Finally, Mr. Bell emphasizes that the Rec Board only makes a recommendation to the County Commissioners. The Commissioners make the make the final decision.

Lacking Priorities

Mr. Bell admits that as long as he's been on the Recreation Board, there hasn't been a formal direction or set of priorities that the board could use as a guide to decide which projects merit funding. Consequently, he says the Board is in the "very early stages" of developing a "Recreation Master Plan" for Sublette County.

Recently, the Board invited the head of the Teton County/Town of Jackson Parks and Recreation Department to speak at one of its meetings concerning basic philosophies and strategies for recreation management. The meeting was productive, and as a result, "our Board has decided we need to become a little more proactive in terms of recreation," says Mr. Bell.

Is A Staff Needed?

One part of this planning process will be evaluating the pros and cons of hiring a recreation staff, says Mr. Bell. Most of the current recreation programs that received county funds are volunteer driven. Consequently, many of the programs and projects gain and lose strength and participation as the volunteers come and go. As an example, he points to the little league baseball program in Pinedale, which he's seen come "full cycle" during his time on the Rec Board. When he was first appointed, the program was really strong, then as volunteers burned out, it waned. Recently, new volunteers have made it strong again.

Mr. Bell says there is a strong argument that a recreation staff, supported by volunteers, could manage programs and keep them consistently strong and active. On the con side, a paying for a staff would cut into the money the Rec Board currently uses to fund projects.

Specific Project Requests

Golf Course Building - The Rec Board has funded projects at the Rendezvous Meadows Golf Course every year Mr. Bell has been on the board. He says the management of the golf course has made "incredible progress," and that the golf committee is running the golf course in a businesslike manner. "We're extremely pleased," he says.

Concerning this year's request, Mr. Bell notes that it is a capital improvement request for a new building, and it is a project that has been on the list for some time. Importantly, he says the Rec Board and the county do not fund operations at the golf course only capital facilities projects. Operations are funded by course revenues.

Walking Paths - There are three walking path projects in various stages of planning and funding says Mr. Bell. The first is the walking path behind the Big Piney schools. This path has always received funds from the Rec Board and this year, a request has been made to resurface the path and for a mower for summer maintenance.

While the Rec Board and county have always funded the path, Mr. Bell says that when the project was originally funded, there was an understanding that the Big Piney schools would also contribute toward the project. However, this funding has "never materialized and has been forgotten," he says. As a result, he thinks members of the Rec Board will question this request during their final budget hearing.

The second walking path project is from the Pinedale Pathways Association. The plan is for a 2-3 mile, 8-foot wide path leading from the Pinedale softball fields up to the CCC Ponds near Fremont Lake. The estimated cost for the path is $440,000, and the Rec Board has committed $54,000 towards this thus far, and another $23,339 is being requested this year. The rest of the funding for the pathway is coming from the state on a 20/80-grant match. Mr. Bell says engineering for the project has been completed and the Environmental Assessment where the path crosses BLM and Forest Service lands is underway. He's hopeful construction will begin this fall.

The final walking path project will link Big Piney and Marbleton. Mr. Bell says the Rec Board committed $20,000 to this project last year, and another $30,000 has been requested this year.

Hockey Rink Roof - The Pinedale Hockey Association has discussed a roof for the Pinedale Rink before but has never requested the funding. Mr. Bell believes the Rec Board has already funded approximately $100,000 towards the hockey rink. He adds, "We got to the point with the Hockey Association that we can't continue to fund it because we don't own it."

To address this concern, along with its $295,000 request for a new roof, Mr. Bell says the Hockey Association is proposing to deed the hockey facility over to the county. "It's a lot of money but we also recognize that hockey is a big deal in Sublette County, is here to stay, and is growing," says Mr. Bell. While he's pleased with the Hockey Association's request, he acknowledges that the Rec Board doesn't have that kind of money and isn't sure what will happen with the request.

Finally, both the Pinedale Preschool and Pinedale Learning Center have submitted requests to the Rec Board for the funding of playground equipment. "We were a little surprised with these two requests," says Mr. Bell. In the past, the Rec Board has given funding to other private, non-profit organizations such as the archery clubs in the county and the Pinedale Hockey Association. However, it could be debatable whether the Preschool and Learning Center's requests fall under the definition of recreation. "In my opinion, these two requests support the need for a vision for recreation in Sublette County," says Mr. Bell.

Master Plan Timeline

Again, Mr. Bell emphasizes that work is just getting started on a recreation master plan for the County. He notes that currently, the Rec Board meets monthly except during the summer - though he believes it may be necessary to meet monthly all year to continue working on the plan. One question raised is how to get the public's input on what the vision for recreation in Sublette County should be. Two ideas are a series of meetings and a countywide survey.

"We're really only beginning the process," says Mr. Bell.

The Rec Board will meet the evening of May 9 in the courthouse to work through the funding requests and make its recommendations to the County Commissioners.

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