Park grass, restrooms, equipment could suffer in face of city cutbacks

       A tight city budget has left a bleak outlook this summer for parks throughout Colorado Springs, and the Westside is no exception.
       The overall outlook is “very gloomy,” City Parks Maintenance Director Kurt Schroeder said. City Council cut his budget by 34 percent, “which definitely impacts our ability to deliver services”; in addition, Springs Utilities raised its watering rates by 41 percent, “and that impacts us just as much,” he said.
       One way citizens can help out is through the city's Adopt-a-Park program, which is asking more of its volunteer adopters than in past years (see adjoining story).
       Perhaps the two most obvious city cutbacks are in restrooms and watering.
       On the Westside, the restrooms in Vermijo, Thorndale and Westmoor parks will remain closed, Schroeder said.
       As for watering, the city is rationing itself this year, so that only those parks considered “primary” will receive the 24 inches that studies have shown is minimally adequate. The Westside's only primary park is Bancroft, because of its high usage and revenue production (through rentals), he said. Also because of that distinction, Bancroft's restrooms will be kept open, he said.
       Parks deemed “secondary” will only get 11.4 inches from city sprinkler systems under this year's policy. The Westside parks in that classification are Vermijo, Thorndale, Bott, Westmoor, Pioneer, Jackson, Pike, Blunt, Cucharras, Bott, Gold Camp and Bristol.
       “Rain, snow or any kind of moisture certainly would help us out,” Schroeder said. Asked what could happen to the grass in the parks if the water rationing continues into next year, he predicted the possibility of losing up to 50 percent of it, with the cost of seeding to bring it back at $10,000 or more an acre.
       “It's painful,” Schroeder said. “We're all here to do a good job, but when you don't have the resources you need, you go downhill.”
       Part of the cutbacks this year include seasonal and full-time maintenance staff. This will slow responses to problems with playground equipment, benches, lighting, trails and “any kind of structure,” he said. But staff shortfalls aren't the only problem with repairs. Schroeder fully expects to run out of money for replacement parts before the year's out.
       The one exception is swingsets. “They are far and away the most popular equipment we have,” he said. “I have money for swingsets.”
       He pledged that his staff will continue to respond as quickly as possible - although he could not pledge how quickly - to vandalism such as broken windows or grafitti. In such cases, the longer it's left unfixed, criminals feel motivated to do it some more, Schroeder explained.

Westside Pioneer article