Recreation projects get thumbs up

Initial steps taken for Nighthorse annexation

The Durango Planning Commission on Monday took a preliminary step toward annexing Lake Nighthorse while also improving access to an existing recreational area by recommending conceptual approval for an 18-space parking lot for the Horse Gulch trailhead near the Sonic Drive-In.

The commission agreed with amending the city’s comprehensive plan for the eventual but somewhat unusual annexation of 5,500 acres of federal land without planning to extend utilities there, either.

To make the reservoir available for public recreation by next summer, the city wants to be able to provide law enforcement. City police cannot patrol outside city limits except to respond to mutual-aid requests in emergencies.

The area is considered contiguous because of its proximity to the Bodo Industrial Park and U.S. Highway 160. It is about two miles from downtown.

The vote was 3-0 with Commissioner Ronald Meier stipulating that he was concerned that the city was over-extending itself.

“I want us to be conscious that we can’t keep on adding playgrounds,” Meier said.

The city has tentatively budgeted $200,000 for Lake Nighthorse for 2013, including funding for two new full-time employees and multiple part-timers.

Durango, however, is counting on 90 percent cost recovery because it plans to charge a $5 daily entrance fees or $50 for a year-round pass, said Cathy Metz, the parks and recreation director.

The city would split the remaining balance of 10 percent with the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the property.

In other business, the commission recommended approval of the Horse Gulch Health Campus at the former Building Specialties site along East Eighth Avenue near Third Street.

The developer would renovate the current building into medical office while also constructing an additional 20,000 square feet of new office space.

The city also wants to develop some land behind the complex for a parking lot for the trailhead. The property also would help to eventually link the Goeglein Gulch trail to the Animas River Trail.