• Artistic rendering of the Casey Jones Park Master Plan.
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The Elizabeth Park and Recreation District hopes district residents will vote for an increase in their mill levy on May 3, which would support major upgrades to Casey Jones Park.
A previous Elbert County News story detailed part of the proposal, focusing on a rec center and fieldhouse/ag building. The rest of the proposal largely focuses on the Casey Jones Park rodeo grounds and arena space, as explained in a Feb. 8 presentation by Elizabeth Park and Recreation District Executive Director Mike Barney, who is holding a series of community meetings in the leadup to the May 3 balloting.
Improvements proposed for the rodeo grounds and arena space include a plan to re-align the rodeo arena to true north/south orientation and several improved structures. The arena would have new covered grandstands with a seating capacity of 3,500, including a VIP area. Located underneath the improved grandstands would be concessions, restrooms, storage space and emergency shelter. The rodeo arena would also include a new announcer’s booth with digital display boards.
In addition to arena improvements, surrounding rodeo grounds would also see changes. These include an improved warm-up and practice space, a 20-stall covered stable, and enhanced site safety for spectators and livestock.
Casey Jones Park would also see an expansion to its campground. Improvements would include 10 full hook-up RV sites, four all-season yurts, a tent camping area and a group propane fire ring. The revenues from park camping would help fund other park improvements.
The Elizabeth Park and Recreation District has received a $150,000 GOCO grant — meaning Great Outdoors Colorado, from lottery proceeds — to assist in funding the expansion. Improvements are already underway.
With the funds, the park district in collaboration with the Elbert County Agricultural Alliance plans to create a homestead education center. The center’s plans envision community greenhouses and gardens, a festival site, program spaces and kiosks, an updated Casey Jones Pavilion, indoor/outdoor classroom(s), and connective and accessible pathways.
Lastly, the EPRD plans improvements to the existing dog park. The 1.25-acre fenced area would have manicured natural grass with existing ponderosa pine trees, a shelter area with benches, and natural appearing play features.

Costs of proposal

The projected construction costs break down as follows:
Community recreation center — $23.5 million
Rodeo grounds and event center — $9.7 million
Fieldhouse/ag building — $10.9 million
Campground expansion — $450,000
Artificial turf ballfield — $800,000
Dog park — $17,000
Homestead education center — to be determined
Total — roughly $45.3 million
The Elizabeth Park and Recreation District plans to obtain funding for this extensive project from many sources in addition to requesting the mill levy increase from voters. There will be issuance of Certificates of Participation (COP’s) to finance construction costs over a period of 30 years. These function much like municipal bonds. The district will also pursue additional GOCO grant funding through the Community Impact Program and request project contributions from Elbert County and the Town of Elizabeth. The district will develop and offer naming rights and sponsorship opportunities as appropriate and pursue improvements over time rather than all at once.
Barney’s February presentation provided an example of how much a homeowner’s annual property tax may increase if the ballot measure passes and increases the district mill levy from 2.466% to 4.932%. He said that for a home valued at $500,000, the annual recreation district tax would double from $88 to $176, and he urged residents to contact their personal accountant or legal counsel to calculate the exact increase for a specific property.
If the ballot measure passes on May 3, the Elizabeth Park and Recreation District Board of Directors will issue a request for proposals to identify contractors for construction to begin in early 2023.
If the ballot measure fails, the park and recreation board will assess options, likely to ask voters again in the future. They will pursue improvements as existing funds allow.

Links to more information

For more information about the project, go online to elizabethpr.com/rec-center-project.
For an Elbert County News guide to finding whether your home or property is in the park district or finding an interactive map of the district, go online to elbertcountynews.net/stories/do-you-live-in-the-elizabeth-park-recreation-district,390668.

Other election details

• Registered voters whose homes are in the Elizabeth Park & Recreation District will be able to vote in the May 3 mill-levy balloting, whether they are owners or renters. In addition, non-resident owners of property in the district are eligible to vote, provided they live in Colorado.

• Ballots will be mailed to registered voters on April 11.

• There will be no polling places for the May 3 election, but there will be ballot drop-off locations available.

• If voters approve the ballot question doubling the park-district mill levy, the change will be permanent.


Ballot language

The ballot question will read as follows:

Elizabeth Park and Recreation District Ballot Issue 6

Operating Tax Increase (2.466 mills)
Shall Elizabeth Park and Recreation District taxes be increased $680,000 annually (for collection in calendar year 2023) or by such additional amounts raised annually thereafter by an additional ad valorem property tax mill levy imposed of up to 2.466 mills, resulting in a total district mill levy rate not to exceed 4.932 mills, (provided that the district’s total mill levy may be adjusted to offset revenue losses from refunds, abatements and changes to the percentage of actual valuation used to determine assessed valuation) to be used for the purpose of acquiring, constructing, equipping, operating, maintaining and renovating park and recreation properties, improvements and capital facilities, including making annual lease payments related to the same, and providing ongoing park and recreation services, including but not limited to:  
• Constructing and equipping a new recreation center, which may include an aquatics center with beach-style entry, lap pool, water slides, hot tub, and a lazy river; gymnasium; fitness area; childcare area; restrooms; locker rooms; program / party room; and
• Improvements identified within the Casey Jones Park Master Plan.
And shall the district be authorized to collect, retain and spend all tax revenue collected from such total property tax rate as a voter-approved revenue change, offset and exception to the limits which would otherwise apply under TABOR (Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution) or any other law and as a waiver of the 5.5% limitation under section 29-1-301, C.R.S.?