A partially collapsed and fenced-off tennis court stands on the edge of a dried-out field in the Durango West 1 subdivision, in an area originally envisioned as a gathering place for residents, with a pavilion, green field, parking area and walking paths.
A lone basketball court is the only usable aspect of the park 12 miles west of Durango that received $45,000 in Great Outdoors Colorado funding and at least $24,334 from the metro district for construction, according to documents provided by GOCO, an organization that grants projects state lottery funds.
Durango West 1 resident Anthony Bonanno said he is appalled by the dilapidated area.
“No one has offered any rationale as to what happened,” he said.
A major natural soil shift caused the tennis court to collapse in 2016, according to a metro district document.
Despite an attempted repair, concrete slabs in the tennis court hang off the edge of the hill. Instead of walking paths, as described in the grant application, deep drainage ditches were dug around a field.
Bonanno said he inquired about the dilapidated condition of the park two years ago but never received clear answers from the Durango West 1 Metro District.
Last fall, Bonanno said he contacted GOCO about the park. The agency’s staff told him several times it needed to communicate with the subdivision’s metro district manager before providing answers, but GOCO staff never provided any substantive answers.
“I am trying to see who is liable for seeing this through,” he said.
Financial responsibilityMetro District Manager Janet Anderson said this week the subdivision’s other priorities, particularly sewer treatment plant updates, have taken precedence over fixing the tennis court and finishing the recreation area. The district did attempt to repair the tennis court once after soil gave way, but it didn’t work, she said.
“We do want to fix it – it’s a matter of money,” she said.
The metro district fees are about $160 per month per home, and residents are sensitive to increases, she said.
“Nobody wants to raise fees to pay for recreation, that’s for sure,” she said.
But she is interested in working with GOCO on a solution to the tennis court.
GOCO staff plans to visit the park in August after hearing about the problem from a concerned resident, said Jackie Miller, GOCO’s director of programs. It will work with the metro district to address the problems, she said.
GOCO’s goal is to hold the metro district accountable, but not financially hurt it, she said.
However, the metro district has an obligation to maintain the park in a reasonable and safe condition for 25 years, according to the contract between GOCO and the metro district.
GOCO can ask for the $45,000 in grant funding to be repaid if the property is not maintained, according to the agreement. Asking for grant money back is never the first course of action, Miller said. In a similar case, a community sought donations to repair its project, she said.
“At the end of the day, we need a safe amenity for the community to enjoy,” she said.
When the tennis court collapsed, the metro district did not inform GOCO because the district was finished working with the group, Anderson said.
A troubled projectThe metro district pitched GOCO on a park with a basketball court, tennis court, pavilion, parking area, irrigated field and footpaths.
The final report, dated December 2014, says the district had trouble finding qualified contractors and spent a large portion of the project money on basic infrastructure, such as dirt work and concrete.
About $20,000 was spent on concrete and about $12,000 on fencing, according to the report.
The metro district’s spending on the project exceeded the $24,000 reported to GOCO, according to the report. So it is unknown exactly how much was spent on the project initially.
It’s likely $6,000 or $7,000 was spent on initial planning and engineering that was not reported to GOCO, Anderson said.
GOCO staff understood the park project had cost overruns, but the major amenities – the basketball and tennis courts – were completed, and that was acceptable, Miller said. Before the metro district was granted funds, the proposal was reviewed by two outside experts to help ensure the proposal was reasonable, she said.
Anderson said it was always the district’s plan to build the park in phases. But problems with the tennis court put a halt to additional improvements, she said.
When the tennis court surface started peeling, the district spent $22,327 on new plastic tile surfacing. The metro district spent an additional $17,872 to repair the court after it collapsed, metro district documents show. Repair efforts included putting in retaining walls, Anderson said.
A full mitigation of the court could have cost $500,000 to $1 million, according to metro district documents.
The district tried to prevent further damage to the court by digging drainage ditches where footpaths had been located, Anderson said.
The district also tried to prevent erosion by never irrigating the open space field, even though it installed a water line for irrigation, she said.
Anderson said she is interested in retaining the undamaged portion of the tennis court and rebuilding a new portion extending into the field.
She is also interested in the expertise GOCO might offer in August.
“I don’t want to spend money that is not going to the best place it can,” she said.