The winds of change are blowing down Breeze in Craig.
On Monday night, the Moffat County School Board considered a proposal to transfer ownership of Breeze Park to the City of Craig.
Although an official board vote on the transfer is pending, city parks and recreation director Dave Pike said the school board largely supports the proposal.
Pike said the ownership transfer could mean improvements for the park, including new playground equipment as soon as spring 2012.
Breeze Park marks the former location of Breeze Elementary School, on the corner of Breeze and West Seventh streets.
Since 1991, the city has maintained the open space as a park under an agreement with the school district, according to a memo from Pike to the school board.
“Over that time, we have conducted day-to-day tasks such as mowing, weeding, irrigation repairs and trash collection,” the memo states.
But, the park now needs capital improvements beyond the scope of the city’s responsibilities.
The park’s playground equipment has been deemed a safety hazard by the city’s insurance carrier, according to the memo.
Also, its aging trees are hazardous and the water supply is no longer in compliance with Colorado law.
Transfer of ownership could allow the city to address those issues, according to the memo.
“Because the City of Craig does not own the property, it has always been difficult to justify budgeting for any capital improvements to the park,” the memo states.
Now that the school board has thrown its support behind the deed transfer, Pike said he will pursue grant money for the park through Great Outdoors Colorado.
GOCO was created by a citizen’s initiative in 1992. According to its website, GOCO receives a portion of state lottery earnings and distributes that money in the form of grants to preserve wildlife, rivers, trails and open spaces.
Pike said the park is a strong candidate for grant money, especially if the deed transfer comes to pass.
“When you apply for Great Outdoors Colorado money, they really like to see partnerships and this is a really good partnership between the City of Craig and the school board,” he said. “Not only will it be supported by matching funds that are provided by the City of Craig, but it will also be supported in-kind by Moffat County School District because the property is worth some money.”
District Superintendent Joe Petrone said the value of the park property is unknown at this time.
“We won’t know what the property price is until it’s appraised,” he said.
Petrone said there was never any discussion to sell the property to help offset state budget cuts this year, or any prior year.
Petrone said there are three reasons a land sale never came up.
First, selling the property would run contrary to the spirit in which the school district received the land, the superintendent said.
“I believe (the land) was granted to the school district many, many years ago — early 1900s — for use as a school,” he said. “And it was very generous on the part of that person.
“That generosity was community-based and I believe that generosity prevails in this community. This (land transfer to the city) is just a continuation of that.”
Second, the park has been part of the community.
“You have to decide what makes sense for the community and what makes sense for the children,” he said. “That (park) has been a stalwart part of that neighborhood.”
Third, Petrone said selling the property would amount to a year’s worth of revenue at the cost of park access.
Pike said a deed restriction is also in the works for Breeze Park.
“I had suggested at the (board) meeting…that there be a deed restriction, that it always remain as a park forever and ever,” he said. “And they all were pleased about that.”
If the transfer goes through, Pike said he will submit a grant application this fall or early next spring. He will also propose new playground equipment during city budget talks in August.
“Within that budget I’ll put in some improvements to the park,” he said. “City council is very supportive of it, so either way, if we get the grant or not, you’ll see some improvements to that park.”
In the meantime, Pike foresees immediate work to the park, like trimming trees, installing a backflow preventer to the irrigation system, and removing the playground equipment.
Pike suggested families who are accustomed to using the playground equipment at the park try the facilities at Craig City Park until new equipment can be installed.
“When we get the new system into Breeze Park, then they’ll stay a little closer to home,” he said.
Click here to have the print version of the Craig Daily Press delivered to your home.