It’s summer and time to enjoy our recreational assets

Thursday, June 15, 2017 5:25 PM
Karen Sheek

Hooray for summer! Now that it’s finally here, this is a good time to highlight our Parks and Rec Department. They have a lot going on, and the facilities and programs they oversee add much to our quality of life.

The annual fishing derby, held June 3, had great participation. Colorado Division of Wildlife stocked the Parque de Vida pond with 200 trout, and the Dolores River Anglers, who partner with the city on this event, provided fly fishing workshops. It was a fun day for young and old fishermen alike followed, perhaps, by a fish fry at home.

The Junior Tennis program held during May had 40 participants, and there were over 300 spectators at this year’s “Celebration of Life” annual skate park competition. We have a dedicated group of skateboarders in our community and the artwork that graces the walls in the skate park was created by local young artists. The “Playground Days” program is in full swing now. Open to kids 5-10, it runs 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. five days a week. Each week has a theme with a variety of activities including pool time, movie days and local area field trips.

Pickleball has gained quite a following in Cortez. It’s been called the fastest growing sport in the U.S., and with over 50 folks playing regularly in town, it’s certainly caught on here. Recently, the city was awarded a Great Outdoors Colorado grant in the amount of $108,000 to build new pickleball courts. The city will match GOCO funds with $72,000 from our local Conservation Trust Fund and local pledges totaling $3,000.

The new courts will take the place of two of the four existing tennis courts that were built in Centennial Park in 1981. The newer of the four tennis courts will remain. The pickleball courts will also be used for our junior tennis program as the court sizes for both sports are the same. There is still some groundwork to complete before construction begins, but we are hoping to have our new pickleball courts ready for play by late summer or early fall. Players, get your paddles ready!

Into racquetball? There are two courts at the rec center. Reservations are suggested but not required. You can also hit lots of balls at the golf course which, along with your strokes I hope, gets better every year,

We have one of only 13 BMX tracks in the state, and if water is your choice of exercise, the Rec Center has a resistance pool, large indoor and outdoor pool — one of only two 50 meter pools on the western slope. Both pools have slides and splash pads.

Did you know the Rec Center saw almost 119,000 visitors last year and is well on its way to topping that number this year? With only four scheduled closures during the year – New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas – there is ample opportunity to take advantage of the fitness equipment, walk the indoor track (17 middle lane laps = 1 mile), shoot some hoops in the gym, rack up some pool balls or climb the rock wall.

We have bike lanes along Empire, Montezuma and 7th, and north to south along Market. There are 10 miles of single track in the 180 acres that comprise Carpenter and Geer Natural Areas and the land bordering Geer which the owner, Keith Evans, has opened to the community. Like to walk? A stroll around Parque de Vida will add 1.1 miles to your pedometer, or walk Hawkins, a natural area south of town maintained in partnership with the Cortez Cultural Center.

As you can see, we have an abundance of recreational opportunities – with many more than I had space to share in this column – and the Parks and Rec staff is always looking for new ways to address needs and interests.

As Dean Palmquist, Parks and Rec Director, said, “We like to turn a concern into an opportunity.” And that’s what the Parks & Recreation Department has been doing here in Cortez for over 40 years.

Karen Sheek is the mayor of Cortez, a position elected by council members. Reach her at or during her office hours from 12:30-1:30 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of the month.