Eight candidates for the Evergreen Park & Recreation District board of directors come from different sectors of Evergreen, all wanting what they perceive is best for the district, but sometimes disagreeing on what that is.
They agreed the board needed to find more ways to engage with the public such as surveys and that the district should step up to provide more programming for senior citizens, but they differed on what they believe the recreation district needs and how they should pay to fulfill those needs.
The three candidates with the highest vote totals in the May 3 election will join the EPRD board. They will replace three candidates who are term limited and cannot run again. In-person voting will be from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at both Buchanan Park and Wulf recreation centers.
The candidates are Steve Beck, Al Buenning, Kristin Courington, Peter Eggers, Betsy Hays, Chris Lewis, Mary McGhee and Jeff Shappard.
The candidates agreed that surveying the community about what it wants and needs EPRD to provide was essential, but several also suggested that one-on-one interactions and outreach to various groups also were important.
“I think coffee chats or nights at the park where we solicit feedback would be beneficial,” Courington, business manager for Evergreen Children’s Chorale, said. “We could put suggestion boxes at the rec centers. We need to gather as much feedback as we can to make better decisions.”
The candidates also agreed that EPRD should step in to provide senior programming, especially with the closure of the Seniors’ Resource Center. Eggers suggested that one of the homes the district owns in Buchanan Park could become a senior center, while several suggested that a walking track would be beneficial and EPRD could sponsor other activities.
Old vs. new
EPRD’s facilities need repair, yet there are many projects the district would like to undertake. When advocating which came first — repairing existing facilities or building new ones — the candidates’ answers differed.
Hays said the district needed to complete projects it had promised to the community such as the Evergreen Lake North Trail and ADA improvements to the Wulf Recreation Center.
“We need to do those simple things we have committed to do,” said Hays, director of resource development at Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice.
Eggers advocated for the district to create more turf fields since they withstand weather and need less yearly maintenance, while Buenning and Lewis advocated for a field house at Buchanan Park.
“The key things is does the district have a master plan (that) should have ingredients of new and maintaining the old,” Buenning, a retired physical education teacher, added.
Courington said she was unsure until she saw results of a community survey, while Shappard said EPRD needed to look at doing both.
Beck and McGhee said it was important to make sure existing facilities were functional because the district had made a commitment to existing facilities.
When asked what programs were missing from EPRD, the candidates responded:
Buenning said especially after the pandemic, EPRD needed to find more programs to get senior citizens active again. Hays agreed, adding that EPRD should add more outdoor programs such as rock climbing and a bike pump track. Courington also advocated for more outdoor programming.
Lewis said while the needs were missing, Evergreen needed a dog park, and EPRD should be involved. McGhee agreed with the dog park and suggested a concert pavilion at Buchanan Park.
Shappard suggested a multiuse recreational facility in Buchanan Park and more trail development, while Eggers said a gymnasium at Buchanan Park would be beneficial.
Beck said the community should be consulted about what could be added to programming.
“For me, to find out what’s missing, it goes back to finding out what is going on, learn what everyone would want and see if there is consensus and a cost benefit,” said Beck, who works special district administration.
The candidates were divided on whether EPRD should use methods other than asking taxpayers to pay for bonds to pay for facilities, such as certificates of participation and lease-back options.
Buenning and Lewis said they were in favor because it takes the burden off of taxpayers to pay for existing and future needs. Shappard added he would be in favor if it were for a new facility that would bring in a lot of revenue.
“If you are going to repair or replace the pool at Wulf (recreation center) then you would talk about a bond,” said Shappard, an IT manager with the National Renewable Energy Lab. “If it’s a new facility with a lot of revenue, then a COP or lease-back would be the way to go where you have a greater certainty of paying back the loan.”
Beck, McGhee and Hays were against, saying they didn’t want to use district assets as collateral for other borrowing methods because if EPRD were to default on a loan, it could lose facilities or land that belonged to the public.
“I find (alternative funding) too risky,” said McGhee, a senior IT systems auditor. “It’s attractive because it doesn’t need voter approval, but you never know when revenues may not pay back the loan.”
Courington said she needed to do more research before she made up her mind.
Eggers said there were pros and cons to borrowing methods other than bonds.
“The main drawback is EPRD would not be asking the community for its opinion on whether it is for or against the project the money would be used for,” said Eggers, owner of a custom woodworking business.
Conflicts of interest
Some candidates said despite being active in other organizations, they didn’t believe they had conflicts of interest with EPRD. Most said they participated in recreational activities in Evergreen, whether part of the district or not.
Lewis, a business owner who is involved in West Jeff Baseball and hockey, countered that he had more conflicts of interest than all of the other candidates combined but that’s why he was running for the EPRD board.
“The groups I represent are disenfranchised and overlooked,” he said. “It is unfair to the groups I represent that we have been ignored and left out of the conversation. That’s why I’m here.”