Longtime Craig Parks and Recreation director Dave Pike looks forward to retirement
He doesn’t have an official last day — or any concrete plans for what he’ll do next — but Craig’s Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike will probably be fly fishing and riding wherever the water takes him once he retires sometime early in 2020.
“I’m going to take a little time off and do a little traveling,” Pike said in an interview Thursday. “I’d like to come back to Craig next summer and I would like to spend my summers in Craig.”
It seems family comes first for Pike, whose immediate family lives in Hayden.
“I have family in Fort Collins, my brother and sister, who both live in Fort Collins,” Pike said. “I’m gonna go back there this spring and visit, stay with them this spring and then kind of play it by ear. I don’t have any concrete plans, but I do love Craig in the summer. I love Craig in the summer and fall. There’s no better place around. I would like to take a break from the winters here. I’ve lived in Colorado all my life. I’ve never lived anywhere else.
“A break from winter wouldn’t hurt my feelings,” Pike added. “I still like to go out and snow machine. I still ski from time to time, but a break from the winter wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit.”
Pike is set to retire after some 23 years on the job.
“I started in parks and recreation in 1984 with Fort Collins parks and recreation,” Pike said. “Then in 1988, I went to Monte Vista, Colorado and became their parks and recreation director and was there for eight years. That was until 1996. I’ve been here ever since.”
In those 23 years, Pike has accomplished a lot, namely a boat-load of cash in state and federal grants for city parks and other amenities. Pike said those grants include the Breeze Park grant from Great Outdoors Colorado for $200,000 with a $50,000 match, a Safe Routes to School sidewalk project grant worth $183,000, a CDOT Highway Enhancement grant to pave the Ridgeview Trail worth some $205,000, a Colorado Division of Local Affairs grant to update Craig’s parks, recreation and trails master plan worth $57,750 with a $19,250 match, a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado to develop Craig’s nearby Elkhead Reservoir for $200,000 with a $50,000 match, a CDOT highway enhancement and Great Outdoors Colorado grant for the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle trail worth $302,000 with a $50,000 match, a Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact grant for a 20-Year parks, recreation, trails and open space master plan grant worth $36,000 with a $12,500 match, and a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for Woodbury Park development worth $37,500 with a $47,425 match.
“I got grants for trails, grants for Breeze Park,” Pike said as he tried to remember all the grants he’s helped acquire for the city. “A lot of people don’t know, but the city was able to secure a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for Elkhead Reservoir back when it was enlarged. A vast majority of those improvements at the boat ramp area were done with the grant I was able to get. I think that was a quarter-million-dollar grant. With that grant, we were able to build those restrooms down there. We built the boat ramp and built the parking lot, put up some of those picnic shelters. That was a big deal. Now it’s taken off since then. State parks has done a great job of managing it and making it nicer. State parks helped with all that too. They were doing it in conjunction with the money I had. It was a joint effort.”
In an interview Thursday, City Manager Peter Brixius said he and other city staff are sad to see Pike go.
“He will be sorely missed,” Brixius said. “Dave has been a real partner in the management team for the past 23 years. We’re not anxious to see Dave go, but we understand.”
In a late revelation Thursday, Brixius said they will likely make an offer to Ryan Dennison, who works underneath Pike as the parks and recreation manager.
Brixius said he and city staff received and reviewed more than 90 applications for Pike’s replacement, but only interviewed six – one of them being Dennison. Other applicants included well-qualified persons from Wyoming, South Dakota, Missouri, Utah and Alaska, Brixius said.
“He came in and blew us away. He interviewed really well,” Brixius said of Dennison. “…He showed that he had that innovative spark we’re looking for.”
Pike made no qualms he was gunning for Dennison.
“I feel pretty confident if Ryan were to get that job, we’d be leaving the department in good hands and the rest of my staff would all be intact,” Pike said. “They’re all great.”
Brixius said they hope to retain Pike’s services for an upcoming river initiative.
“We expect to see Dave around here quite a bit after he retires,” Brixius said. “We might look to Dave to help us out with a special project. He’s got all the depth and experience and connections. That could be a real benefit to the city. “
That special project will probably involve a diversion structure on the Yampa River to attract a host of whitewater enthusiasts who pass through Craig every summer. The project meets the criteria for a donation from the newly-formed Yampa River Fund endowment, according to the fund’s manager, Andy Baur.
“I’d like to help the city somehow get that Yampa River diversion project off the ground and started,” Pike said. “That’s kind of a pet project of mine, but it’s going to take some time and effort and obviously a lot of money. I would like to help with that when I retire. It could really be a draw to Craig. We always talk about diversifying our economy and I think one of the ways we do that is with outdoor recreation. These whitewater parks have been built in several locations throughout the state and the region and every one of them is a smashing success. There’s no reason to think ours wouldn’t be as well. We have rafters all summer long coming through Craig – all summer long. Some of the best rafting is in our back yard at Dinosaur National Monument. When these folks grab their permits and go down there and enjoy that, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be stopping in Craig and enjoying some of the things we have to offer as well.”
Pike hopes the community remembers him as someone who made the area’s park and sports amenities better for generations to come, and for helping make Whittle the Wood —which just celebrated its 20th year — one of the greatest events in the state of Colorado.
On behalf of he and his family, Pike also wanted to thank the Craig and Moffat County communities for being so supportive over the years, “especially when my son Cory passed away.”
“It’s been a hell of a ride,” Pike said.