Sunday, January 21, 2018

Resilient lodgepole may help Summit forests recover from pine beetle

Colorado State Forest Service

Summit Daily Link

Fire, disease, logging — these are mortal enemies to most trees. Yet the lodgepole pine seems to thrive after disaster, and that is a bit of good news for Summit forests devastated by the mountain pine beetle.
Matt Schiltz, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, gave a presentation Tuesday to the Forest Health Task Force about the lodgepole's resiliency. The task force is a collaborative program that brings together various forest-related government agencies and nonprofits to promote and educate about forest health.
Schiltz, who works out of the CSFS Granby field office, demonstrated the lodgepole's knack for regrowth with a case study of the forest in and around the old ghost town of Arrow, Colorado, located just north of Winter Park.
Back at the turn of the 20th century, Schiltz explained, Arrow was a bustling logging and tourist town in Grand County after the Moffat railroad came through over Rollins pass in 1905. At its height, Arrow (previously known as Arrowhead) was the largest town in Grand, with a population of 200.
By 1920, much of the surrounding forest had been cut and cleared for lumber. That year, a debt-burdened saloon owner set his establishment on fire as part of an ill-conceived insurance scheme. The fire spread and the entire town and adjoining hillside forest burned to the ground. People abandoned Arrow, and nature slowly reclaimed the hill.
When Schiltz looked over Google Earth images of the area in 2005, he found the area covered in dense, green, mature forest. Then in 2007, the mountain pine beetle epidemic hit, impacting 3.4 million acres of forestland in Colorado, including most of the lodgepole pine trees around what used to be Arrow.
Denver Water Board owns the land in the area, and called on CSFS to conduct salvage and management operations for beetle-killed pine. In 2010, all of the dead pine was harvested and cleared. In a series of photographs, Schiltz showed the progress of regeneration in the area.
"We returned to that site in 2013, and a fairly large number of lodgepole pine seedlings had been established," Schiltz said. "They were only about 6 inches to a foot high."
However, by 2016, Schiltz said the area saw "a surprising amount" of lodgepole growth. "Within a matter of three years, they've grown to 2-and-a-half feet. Young, vigorous lodgepole."
How did that rapid regrowth happen? Schiltz said that it was all part of the lodgepole's programming.
"All those large cuts a few years ago (were) replicating disturbances, such as fire," he said.
The lodgepole pine cone is designed to be "activated" by fire or heat, and lays dormant until such disturbances occur. When they do, the cones release seeds that take root and grow quickly. Thus, devastation is actually the spur for the lodgepole, and the ashen and bare patches across Summit might see significant regeneration for many years to come.
"You might not see it now, but all over Summit there are these little seedlings growing, thousands in an acre. This is new forest that can take hold and become a real, dense area of growth for the next 100 to 200 years," Schiltz said.
Howard Hallman, director of the Forest Health Task Force, cautioned that climate change and other factors such as geography could change the makeup of the forest and the trees growing in them.
"Say you have a southern-facing hillside, that's drier and warmer. It might not come back as forest at all, it might come back as sage brush or some other tree species."
On the other hand, a mix of trees more adapted to the environment might have the opposite effect, giving rise to stronger, more diverse and more resilient forests. Hallman said that the U.S. Forest Service and CSFS have been trying to introduce diversity in tree species for this very reason.
"The more species that are in the area, the harder it is for the forest to be wiped out by any one kind of disease, like the mountain pine beetle," he said.
Hallman stressed the need for more resources and more research to protect Summit's forests.
"Particularly in Summit County," he said, "where the danger of wildfire is increasing with higher temperature and drier conditions, we can't afford to be passive. We need to be proactive with the diversity of species and management plans."

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Construction begins in May on first new hut approved on county public land in 22 years

#Summit County #Colorado
Summit Huts Association

Summit Daily Link

The Summit Huts Association will begin construction in May on the first new hut approved on public land in Summit County in 22 years.
After more than a decade of planning, SHA announced on Wednesday that this new winter-only hut, "The Sisters Cabin" is anticipated to open early next winter.
The 2,090-square-foot Sisters Cabin will be the fifth backcountry hut in the Summit Huts system and will be located in Weber Gulch on the northern flank of Bald Mountain (a.k.a. Baldy), at an elevation of 11,445 feet.
Per its winter-only designation, The Sisters Cabin will only be open to guests from the third week of November through the end of April each year.
The Sisters Cabin will accommodate 14 guests with beds for two more people in the hutmaster quarters. The hut will be heated by a wood stove in the main living area and passive solar energy via large south-facing and west-facing windows, with electricity drawn from a solar array outside the hut.
Two bathrooms within the hut will feed a composting toilet below, similar to those at Janet's and Francie's cabins, while an adjacent sauna and woodshed will be connected to the hut by a covered walkway.
SHA also worked with the town of Breckenridge and Summit County governments to plan a new, 17-space parking lot that will be constructed near the Sallie Barber Trailhead on French Gulch Road this autumn.
SHA added that reservations for The Sisters Cabin will be taken once construction is underway and a specific opening date is more certain.
The construction of the hut is permitted under a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service and SHA claims the cabin's design will be state-of-the-art and utilize green-building techniques to minimize its environmental impact. The hut will be constructed using structural insulated panels as well as a Douglas fir timber frame. All materials will be flown in by helicopter due to the remote site.
SHA also says the hut experience will be similar to those at SHA's flagship huts such as Janet's Cabin and Francie's Cabin.
"What we're trying to do is make a hut that has all the traditional appeal and comfort and coziness of Francie's and Janet's," Breckenridge architect Robbie Dickson said, "but with cutting-edge technology."
Dickinson, a former Summit Huts president and principal of Equinox Architecture LLC, designed the hut pro-bono and received early conceptual help from Andy Stabile and Tim Sabo. Turner Mountain Construction, which is owned by longtime SHA volunteers Jill and Merle Turner, was selected to serve as the general contractor for the hut's construction.
Financing for the cabin construction was boosted by a $1 million donation from Don and Sue Sturm, owners of ANB Bank, and their Sturm Family Foundation. SHA says the name of The Sisters Cabin celebrates the close bonds that backcountry skiing and adventure have played amongst Sue, her friends and family.
"We took great care to ensure we are building it in the right location and under the right conditions," SHA president Rich Rowley said. "I can't wait for people to experience it in person."
This spring's groundbreaking on The Sisters Cabin comes 13 years after SHA's staff and board revisited its original 1987 master plan to explore the feasibility of adding a new hut to the system.
The U.S. Forest Service approved the concept for the cabin in 2015 and in the two years since, the SHA has finalized the details and secured the funds to build the hut.
SHA's 1987 master plan envisioned five to seven backcountry huts throughout the county, and between 1987 and 1998 SHA built or restored the system's existing four cabins: Janet's (1991), Francie's (1995), Section House (1997) and Ken's Cabin (1998). SHA claims roughly 7,500 guests visit its cabins each year.
"These huts, they are really neat opportunities for the public to gain access to the national forest and be outdoors and recreate, ski, hike, snowshoe on the national forest," said Dillon district ranger Bill Jackson, "The planning part of it was good and there was a lot of public support for a hut in that location. I think it provides a little bit more opportunity for the public to get out in the backcountry and experience the outdoors in the winter time."

Friday, January 19, 2018

Summit County Airbnb rentals netted at least $23 million last year

#Summit County #Colorado
Michael Yearout Photography

Summit Daily Link

Summit County's local governments are inching toward unified regulations for short-term rentals, potentially following Breckenridge's lead in establishing more stringent rules to ensure owners don't shirk town rules or avoid paying taxes.
So far, Breckenridge is the only town to mandate that owners include business license numbers in rental listings. But Dillon is considering that approach as well, and the Summit County government could implement similar regulations as soon as May.
Should Frisco and Silverthorne follow suit, officials would likely have a better handle on how widespread short-term renting is, which reduces the area's tight housing stock but also allows homeowners to boost their incomes.
Airbnb, one of the most popular short-term rental platforms, announced on Wednesday that it brought 89,000 guests to Breckenridge in 2017, the second-highest total in the state after Denver and 17,000 more than third-place Colorado Springs. The company estimated Breckenridge hosts earned $16.5 million last year.
“We’re doing our best to coordinate with the towns to make sure we’re consistent, but everyone does it a little bit differently.”Don Reimer County planning director
Keystone and Silverthorne made the state top-10 at seventh and eighth place, respectively, with a combined 48,000 guests bringing in $6.5 million.
But the total reach of short-term rentals can be difficult for officials to track, in part because listings don't always include addresses. Ads can also be unclear as to which jurisdiction a unit falls under.
If all towns and the county government required listings to include a license number, it would be easy to track scofflaws, especially if the jurisdictions agreed to pitch in on a single monitoring program.
"If all of us in Summit County including Frisco and Silverthorne go to similar regulations, and specifically this numbering system, then any ad for Summit County that doesn't have a number, we would know isn't compliant with any of us," acting Dillon town manager and finance director Carri McDonnell said during a town council work session on Tuesday.
Last May, the Breckenridge Town Council approved rules requiring anyone renting a residence for less than 30 days to include their business license number in their listing.
That was intended to ease enforcement of the town's 3.4 percent tax on short-term rentals and help officials collect the revenues more efficiently. Owners must also pay an annual license fee ranging from $75 to $175.
Additionally, the regulations can help the town ensure that deed-restricted units, generally reserved for Summit County workers, aren't being illegally rented out.
An audit conducted by Breckenridge late last year indicated the regulations were working. It found only 65 violations, translating to a 98 percent compliance rate.
During Tuesday's work session, Dillon town staff recommended the town council adopt rules requiring each short-term unit to obtain its own license for a nominal fee.
Under the current system, property managers are only required to have a single license for any number of units, making it difficult for the town to track how many short-term units are being rented out.
The proposed rules would also require units to have a property manger contact within a certain mile radius to ensure timely responses to neighbor complaints or other issues.
"We haven't come up with how we would disseminate that information (to neighbors) but we know we would need to collect it," McDonnell said. "I think there should be some requirement that the owner in Texas doesn't get to do short-term and never, ever have anyone here to manage that place."
Fines for non-compliance would range from $200 to $1,000 for each day of violation, the same fee structure as Breckenridge.
Regulations that might emerge across Summit's local governments are likely to be a patchwork of sorts; Dillon, for instance, is considering requiring safety information placards in units similar to those found in hotel rooms, unlike Breckenridge. And unlike towns, the county government can't issue business licenses and would need to pursue regulations through land-use codes. County staff are currently drafting regulations and expect to present their proposal to the Board of County Commissioners next month. If adopted, the rules would take affect on May 1.
"We've gotten a lot of feedback from people who say this is an important part of our economy, but there need to be some regulations to ensure it's well done and there aren't problems with trash, noise, parking and things like that," planning director Don Reimer said. "We're doing our best to coordinate with the towns to make sure we're consistent, but everyone does it a little bit differently."
Separately, the county is considering banning short-term rentals in backcountry-zoned properties, which Reimer said would affect about 25 residences.
(The ban would not apply to ski huts.)
A hearing for that proposed rule, which has drawn pushback from some property owners, is scheduled for Jan. 23.
If all jurisdictions required license numbers displayed in ads, it could allow for more efficient enforcement of the basic lodging tax compliance rules.
"This is not going to happen overnight, but it's certainly the direction we would like to move in," McDonnell said. "It's working in Breckenridge, and I think the rest will follow suit. … So once we're all doing it, it will be easy to tell who's compliant."
Dillon Town Council members said they were comfortable moving forward with a licensing system, but there is no clear timeline yet for when the rules might be implemented.
"I don't mind being the first ones to do it as long as we're having conversations to make sure we're going in the same direction," Councilwoman Carolyn Skowyra said.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Dillon hotel project goes back to drawing board after construction costs setback

#Dillon #Colorado
Summit Daily Photo

Summit Daily Link

Developers working on a hotel proposal in Dillon trimmed and squeezed to get their project in line with height restrictions after the town rejected their pitch early last year.
Now it appears they may have cut a little too much.
Local businessman Danny Eilts and his partners pulled their proposed five-story hotel from the Dillon Town Council's consideration Tuesday night, saying high construction costs were forcing them to make major changes.
It was a setback for the Crossroads at Lake Dillon, a project billed as a vehicle to remake the entrance to town and jumpstart investment, but developers said it was only temporary. They plan to have a new pitch before council in early March allowing them to get in the ground by the summer.
“I’ve been working on this for five years, and it’s still a great project, but we’re trying to get things right.”Danny EiltsDillon businessman
"I've been working on this for five years, and it's still a great project, but we're trying to get things right," Eilts told the council. "So we're just having some issues here and decided to withdraw from the project and we'll come back to you with something better."
A year ago, Eilts pitched a larger, six-story version of the hotel and conference center, but the town council balked at its 90-foot height. The Dillon Planning Commission approved the latest 58-foot iteration after a public hearing in December.
Some residents were still concerned about the size of the building, which they feared would block mountain views and disrupt Dillon's quiet charm.
John Frew, a Denver developer and partner on the project, tried to address those concerns during a December public hearing, saying hotel projects need high room volumes to be financially viable because 95 percent of their revenues come from room rates.
On Tuesday, Frew told council that at 103 guest rooms, the project wouldn't bring in enough revenue to cover the estimated building cost of $300,000 per unit.
"We know what we need to do, that's the good news," Frew said. "But we did not want to ask you to approve something that we knew we would have to come back and amend. So this is a mid-course correction. It happens."
The latest proposal called for 103 guest rooms, a conference center, recreation deck, indoor pool and rooftop bar-restaurant. The developers plan to stick with the basic design but will be doing some major retooling to make the numbers work.
"We're going to downsize some things and make some major changes to the project," Eilts said, reached by phone Wednesday. "We have a great base and we're still optimistic that we can get this started by the spring."
The new plan will need to be approved again by the Planning Commission before advancing to the town council, which could vote on approval as early as March 2.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

In second year, Under Armour mountain running series to kick-off at Copper in mid-July

#Copper Mountain #Colorado
Summit Daily News Photo

Summit Daily Link

The Under Armour Mountain Running Series will return to Copper Mountain Resort this summer, but in its second go-around the three-race series will begin at Copper rather than conclude there.
This year's event will consist of 50K, 25K, 10K and 5K trail races for running professionals and enthusiasts and will take place at Copper on Saturday, July 14. The series will continue onto Killington Resort in Vermont on Aug. 25 and conclude at Mount Bachelor Ski Resort near Bend, Oregon, on Sept. 15.
A $5,000 prize purse will be distributed across the men's and women's podium for the top three 50K finishers at each race in the series — $1,500 to the first-place male and female, $750 to second place and $250 for third place.
Registration is currently open for each race, and course details, elevation maps and training plans can be found at Admission to the 50K race is $99, $79 for the 25K race, $59 for the 10K and $39 for the 5K. With registration, racers will receive a commemorative package featuring a finisher medal and an Under Armour long sleeve technical running t-shirt.
"The inaugural series last year provided an inspired experience for all our mountain and trail runners across the country who participated," said Topher Gaylord, Under Armour's general manager of outdoors. "We were energized to amplify the experience for runners in 2018, with distances for first-time trail runners to the world's elite mountain runners."
At the 2017 Copper race that concluded the series on Sept. 9, Mario Mendoza won the 50K men's race with a time of 4 hours, 20 minutes 13 seconds, while Ryan Phebus and Brett Hales also finished on the podium with times of 4:26:51 and 4:30:06 respectively.
In the women's 50K, Taylor Nowlin took the championship with a time of 5:05:12 while Brandy Erholtz and Margaret Lane also finished on the podium with times of 5:26:31 and 6:06:22 respectively. Last year's event also feature marathon, marathon relay and vertical challenge races.
"The really gnarly singletrack that you get to run through is absolutely beautiful," Adam Gerrit, Under Armour's Director of Outdoor Footwear, said of the Copper course.
Under Armour Outdoor athletes YiOu Wang, Kelly Wolf, Kyle Dietz, Bryan Tolbert, Cameron Hanes and 2017 UA 50K defending champion, Cody Reed, are expected to compete this summer.
The Copper race's 50K, 25K, 10K and 5K race courses are currently pending permit approval.
When race weekend arrives on Friday, July 13, racers will be able to pick up their race packets from 2-8 p.m. at Burning Stones Plaza. They'll also be able to pick up their packets at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday before the 50K race kicks off at 7 a.m.
The subsequent races will then begin in 30-minute intervals beginning with the 25K race start at 7:30 a.m., the 10K race start at 8 a.m. and the 5K race start at 8:30 a.m. The award ceremony will then take place at 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bill proposes allowing mountain bikers to use wilderness land

Summit Daily Photo

Summit Daily Link

Proposed federal legislation that would amend the Wilderness Act is setting off alarms within the mountain biking and conservation communities.
HR 1349 and its sister amendment in the Senate come at a time when public lands are under attack by those seeking to reduce their size and open them to grazing, mining and drilling.
If passed, it would lift the blanket ban on bicycles, wheelchairs, strollers and other forms of mechanized transport in designated wilderness areas in place since 1984. Land managers in each area then would decide whether to open access or keep trails closed to bicyclists.
The amendment was approved 22-18 by the House Committee on Natural Resources, moving it to the full House.
In Colorado, 40 wilderness areas cover over 3.7 million acres, including the Lost Creek Wilderness in Park and Jefferson counties. These areas generally are remote, removed from urban traffic and the quiet, backcountry experience many Coloradans seek.
The Colorado Trail runs through six of them, forcing mountain bikers to leave the trail and use major roads — some of which don't have bike lanes — to detour around the restricted area.
These types of landscapes are ones that Ted Stroll, president of the Sustainable Trails Coalition, hopes land managers can open. Others, like the Maroon Bells during peak summertime, might be better off closed, he said.
The Sustainable Trails Coalition, a nonprofit formed in 2015 aimed at pushing the bill through Congress, argues that the amendment restores the original intent of the 1964 Wilderness Act.
"Wilderness is about rugged and self-reliant recreation," said Stroll. "Backcountry biking is just that, so we see this as restoring rather than amending the act."
Some members of the outdoors community think otherwise, arguing that bicyclists' fast pace disrupts hikers' quiet solitude, they degrade the trails and natural environment and the overall aesthetic of a wilderness area does not include mountain bicyclists, especially since bicyclists already have plenty of ridable acreage.
Sustainable Trails Coalition has countered each of these in a blog post for First, unlike those riding downhill, those bicycling in the backcountry move at a moderate pace — usually 4 to 6 mph in comparison to a hiker's 1 to 3 mph.
Second, Sustainable Trails Coalition board member and Colorado Springs resident John Fisch pointed to peer-reviewed papers in recreational ecology that repeatedly have shown that a bike's impact on trails is equal to a hiker's and less than horses. Aaron Teasdale, an author for Sierra Club Magazine, has advocated against the amendment, but also noted that some studies showed that slower moving trail users, like hikers and cross-country skiers, can be more disruptive to wildlife than faster-moving trail users, who leave an area more quickly.
That leaves the argument over aesthetics, one that cannot be resolved with a scientific study.
"This debate is best described with the German word kultkurkampf, which is a cultural struggle or dispute," said Stroll. "In this case, it boils down to a dispute over the aesthetic of how to travel through wild places. The difference between us and conservationists fighting against us is that they regard our aesthetic as illegitimate, whereas we're happy to share."
Opposing Sustainable Trail Coalition's initiative is a major player in the mountain biking community: the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Founded in 1988, IMBA has more than 40,000 members worldwide, advocates for mountain bicyclist rights and access across the country, and testified against the amendment before the House committee.
Their opposition to the bill seemingly is contradictory — if their mission is to "create, enhance and protect great places to ride mountain bikes, why not jump at the chance at an assortment of new trails in remote places?
In a statement published before the House committee vote, Executive Director Dave Wiens wrote, "…we simply do not think the answer to our challenges is to change a bedrock conservation law, especially right now. Public lands are being threatened at an unprecedented level, and it's imperative that public land users come together to protect these cherished places and offer our voices in this critical decision."
The amendment also would injure long-standing relationships IMBA has with federal land management agencies, which Wiens said were critical to agreements that simultaneously opened new trails and protected critical ecosystems.
A notable agreement in Colorado was the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act. The 2012 legislation protected 70,650 acres of San Juan National Forest near Durango, 38,000 of which would be set aside and managed as wilderness. The rest would be open to mountain biking, motorized and selective timber harvesting in accordance with Forest Service protocol.
The bill satisfied preservationists eager to protect vulnerable areas, recreationists and industry.
Despite IMBA's stance and national reputation, some local chapters have broken with their parent organization.
The New England Mountain Biking Association and San Diego Mountain Biking Association created a campaign urging IMBA to retract its opposition to the bill. Nearly 7,000 people have signed the online petition and aligned themselves with the mission of the Sustainable Trails Coalition.
The board of the Colorado Springs IMBA chapter, Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates, has yet to review the legislation and take an official stance. Chapter President Cory Sutela is in favor of opening portions of wilderness areas that, for example, overlap with the Colorado Trail. He worries, though, what other stakeholders — ones that have a much larger environmental impact — might push their way into these protected areas with successive legislation.
"Our mission is all about riding experiences and giving people access to great trails," he said, "but if you give local land managers control of wilderness, there's a chance you have a manager that is more friendly to mining and other extractive industry.
"I don't know if the floodgates would open because it depends on who is at the gates."
The congressman at the forefront of the House bill is sponsor Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., while two Utah Republicans, Sens. Mike Lee and co-sponsor Orrin Hatch, have led the charge on the Senate bill.
Although Stroll said he and his team tried to work with both political parties, Democrats shied away from supporting the bill.
"We have gotten the cold shoulder from Democrats afraid of hurting organizations like the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society," Stroll said, specifically mentioning Rep. Jared Polis, whose district includes IMBA's headquarters in Boulder. "The people who will champion the amendment are libertarian Republicans who see the unfairness that the Forest Service and other agencies have imposed on mountain bikers."
The House Committee on Natural Resources' vote was divided along party lines, except for Sen. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who voted against the bill.
The libertarian Republicans pushing forward this bill have constituents other than mountain bicyclists in mind, said Athan Manuel, director of Lands Protection Program for the Sierra Club.
All three congressmen advocated for reducing of the Size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments and voted for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.
"You don't ask what the bill does, you ask about who the sponsors are, and I don't think certain members of the mountain bike community understand who they are aligning themselves with," said Manuel. "They don't care about getting more bikers outside. They care about weakening specific public lands protections."
Manuel expects four-wheeler and ATV advocates "to be next in line at the toll booth" to secure access to wilderness areas if HR 1349 passes.
"With this current Congress, we need to take these threats seriously," he said.
With the blanket ban, the conservation community is excluding 8.5 million mountain bicyclists in the U.S. from voting in favor of public lands or volunteering to do backlogged trail maintenance.
Teasdale agrees: "Simply put," he wrote, "it will be harder in the future to designate new wilderness or complete large-scale conservation initiatives without the support of mountain bikers."

Monday, January 15, 2018

Breckenridge Recreation Center’s $17M redo creates new mecca for fitness

#Breckenridge #Colorado
Summit Daily Photo

Summit Daily Link

During Friday morning's coffee talk inside the newly renovated Breckenridge Recreation Center, the town mayor detailed what one piece of the $17 million redo, a new indoor turf field, could mean for one demographic.
"If your kids play any of the sort of more normal sports, they're always at a disadvantage," Mayor Eric Mamula said, explaining that because of Summit County's high-elevation climate, more traditional outdoor sports, like soccer or lacrosse, are more limited here than they are at lower altitudes.
"(Children in Denver) can play nine or 10 months out of the year where our kids, you know, are skiing right now, which is great," said Mamula, standing in front of a row of large windows, his remarks punctuated by a heavy snowstorm in the background. "That's why you live here."
But it also doesn't come without its tradeoffs, he continued, and it too is "nice to provide the opportunity for kids to get in there and throw a lacrosse ball or kick a soccer ball around."
Most of the questions posed over coffee Friday morning had little to do with the newly remodeled facility or anything closely related to recreation in Breckenridge.
Instead, the crowd of about two-dozen was more interested in things like water, transportation and parking, a signal that perhaps recreational opportunities are well taken care of here.
After the casual forum, workers at the center offered tours of the newly remodeled facility, showing off the new digs and everything they have to offer.
Leading the first group was Breckenridge director of recreation Scott Reid, who's impressed by just how many different people might be served by the additions.
"I think it really is a broad base and targets a lot of community members," Reid said of the project that adds roughly 11,000 square feet of new recreation space to the facility and about triples its dedicated fitness area.
To make room, the indoor tennis courts have been replaced by a 17,500 square-foot, stand-alone indoor tennis center, built over top of two existing outdoor hard courts adjacent to the facility at 880 Airport Road.
The tennis center is expected to open later this month.
With the new tennis center, the old space for the indoor courts has been converted into a two-story mecca for fitness, complete with a new cardio deck, cycling studio, redefined stretching stations, weight room, functional conditioning room with suspension training and, of course, the indoor turf gym.
Additionally, the project includes the relocation and expansion of physical-therapy services at the center, updated multi-purpose rooms, four additional bathrooms and three changing rooms, and a new facility-wide stereo system. There have also been some less visible upgrades, like new heating and cooling systems.
The expanded cardio deck also comes with one-third more equipment, and throughout the facility, people can listen along to TVs via a new smartphone app.
The work of couple local photographers adorns some of walls, and new LED lighting makes for a brighter facility that's also more energy efficient.
A new elevator has replaced the old lift, which Reid said didn't meet federal standards for people with disabilities. Now, it has three stops at the two-story building, giving someone who doesn’t do steps easy access to every level.
"We also have the ability now to haul equipment in here," Reid continued. "So when we need to move treadmills and other things, we can actually fit them in the lift, which is very helpful for our staff."
New windows on the cardio deck also provide spectacular views of the mountains, and there's been an effort to bring in more natural lighting throughout the center.
The children's area is also currently closed to the public while the rec center creates a brand new 2,800 square-foot wing for children out of its old weight room.
One of the most sought-after additions by members of the public, according to town officials, was for a year-round indoor playground, and some people might be happy to know one's being included in the wing.
While much of the work is complete, the overall project continues, and the new children's wing isn't expected to be finished until sometime in April or May.
"We really felt that it is so difficult to have little kids up here — they're too young to ski, they're too young for school," Mamula said. "For a stay-at-home parent, there are so few things you can do with your kids that there are seriously (parents) in town who go absolutely bonkers during the winter because they have a 5 and a 3-year-old and nothing to do with them."
While the new children's wing takes shape, the children's programs have been temporarily relocated to the center's old Avalanche physical therapy space, which will be freed up for things like birthday parties or other uses when the children's wing opens, Reid said.
Also, the new children's wing will be in a more centralized location inside the recreation center, a move that both Reid and Mamula applauded as an extra layer of protection since someone will have to pass the center's staff before reaching the new area.
"I think this addresses a lot of the needs the community has," Reid said of the overall project. "That's really been the focus. This is much more a community facility than it is a rec center, and I think this allows us to handle daycare better, to handle the cardio needs that we have. Again, I think it's really a broad-based renovation that's going to help a lot of people."