The newly formed Dolores Parks Committee met for the first time Feb. 14, and the main topic was planning for a new playground.
The advisory committee is made up of Nikki Gillespie, Mike Riley, Kalin Grigg, Lisa Holz, and Tracy Murphy. Riley was voted in as committee chair, and Holz as secretary.
The committee’s first priority is to explore design and funding options for a new playground to replace one recently removed due to deterioration and safety issues.
They heard a presentation from Chris Burkett, a local grant writer and former recreation director for Cortez.
Burkett said it is important to involve the community in the planning of the playground. The committee is considering a community survey to gather ideas, including from school kids.
“Sometimes a community needs prodding to get the ideas flowing,” Burkett said.
The committee wants the town to seek out grants to help pay for the project. Three main grant options are from the Department of Local Affairs, Great Outdoors Colorado, or Community Development Block Grants.
Burkett said developing project partners who will contribute to the playground either through donated funding or donated materials will improve an application’s chances.
“Grant organizations want to see there is community support and buy-in for a project, not just from the town government,” he said.
Seeking smaller grants for the playground from private philanthropic groups is also recommended. Those add to the partnership aspect of a project and will boost chances of a larger grant award.
The previous playground was a “community build” style in 2001, where hundreds of volunteers showed up to help under the direction of the professional builders.
But Burkett did not recommend that approach this time around due to stricter rules regarding volunteer labor and potential liability issues.
It was noted that the town could seek a planning grant for playground and parks needs, then apply for another grant for construction, but that would be a longer process. If awarded, the planning grant could be used to pay a consultant that specializes in community recreation needs.
A faster process would be for the town and committee to do the planning and design themselves, then submit a detailed grant application for actual playground construction.
How to handle community fundraising for the playground was discussed.
Burkett said town governments can accept donations for a special projects and record them in a special budget line item. A receipt is issued to the donor.
Or an outside group can raise the money separately, then donate it to the town all at once when the time comes to cover a grant match.
“It looks better on a grant application if an outside group is raising the money as a project partner,” Burkett said. He added that the project needs to be well defined so donors know what they are buying into.
Audience member Angela Salazar was confident the community would rally for a new playground.
“It’s amazing how much this community comes together, especially when it’s for a project that involves children,” she said.
The committee is considering building a parks committee Facebook page where information on the playground project would be posted. It would not have a public comment section, but the information could be shared.
The parks committee is scheduled to meet the second Wednesday of every month at the Dolores Community Center. To try and speed up the planning process for a new playground, the parks committee decided to meet more often when necessary.
Therefore, the next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 6 p.m., but a location is yet to be determined.