On Tuesday, the Cortez City Council voted to name the Cortez BMX track after the family of operators Mark and Stacey Baxter.
The Cortez Parks and Recreation Department has been considering a new name for the track, as well as its surrounding bike complex, for several months. At the suggestion of Cortez BMX Club leadership, the department’s advisory board voted in its June meeting to name the complex after the Baxter family, but when the subject was brought up in a June 26 workshop, some council members expressed concern about naming a facility after someone still living. On Tuesday, the council voted on a compromise resolution that sets the Cortez Bike Complex as the official name for the Parque de Vida playground, but names the track itself after the Baxters.
Parks and Recreation Director Dean Palmquist said the couple has contributed significantly to the track for most of its 18 years of operation. The Baxters have been BMX track operators for about 11 years, and have continued to help maintain the complex on a volunteer basis for about two years, even though their grown children are no longer part of the local BMX youth program.
Chris White, who has helped lead the BMX youth program for about five years, urged the council to approve the new name.
“I’ve seen the work that Mark and Stacey do with the kids in this community,” he said. “I’ve seen kids that were trouble, that definitely needed an outlet ... those kids open up to Mark and Stacey.”
He said the Baxters have helped to raise money for scholarships to allow kids from low-income families to compete in races, and sometimes donate their own bikes to racers who need them. He praised the family’s commitment to the sport, saying they have likely put more time and effort into the Cortez BMX program than anyone else in town.
Councilman Mike Lavey, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, also praised the Baxters for their work on the track.
“They just love their work, love what they’re doing for the city and the kids,” he said. “They really deserve recognition.”
At the June 26 workshop, Mayor Karen Sheek and other council members expressed reservations about naming the whole bike complex after people who are still living, saying it could open the city up to criticism if something with a negative connotation were to happen to the facility’s namesakes, or if other volunteers ended up contributing just as much as they did.
Palmquist modified his proposal in response to their comments, asking for permission to name a “sub-element” of the bike complex after the Baxters. During the meeting, councilwoman Jill Carlson pointed out that the BMX track could be considered a sub-element of the complex, and recommended naming it after the family.
The rest of the Council agreed, voting unanimously to approve the new name. At the suggestion of Associate Planner Neva Connolly, they also agreed to change the name from Palmquist’s initial proposal, the Mark Baxter Family BMX Track, to the Baxter Family BMX Track. Connolly suggested the change because, she said, Mark and Stacey Baxter share an “equal partnership” in maintaining the track.
Palmquist said the new signs at the track will be unveiled in a ceremony before the state BMX qualifier on July 21, when about 200 athletes are expected to compete in Cortez.