City balks at park foundation request

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Littleton City Council declined the South Suburban Park Foundation’s annual request for $100,000 on Oct. 23, instead asking its board to return with specific requests as projects get under way.

“I have some concern over writing a $100,000 check that we have no idea what it’s going to go for, and I also have some concern that we wrote a $100,000 check in 2009 that’s in your bank account, not ours,” said Mayor Debbie Brinkman.

She was referring to money designated for the Big Dry Creek Trail, specifically for a connecting bridge behind Littleton High School. But, said board member Dale Flowers, the community did not want the bridge, so the money is still waiting to be used elsewhere on the trail.

City Manager Michael Penny explained to the SSPF board that council’s decision reflected a change in policy, even across city departments, toward keeping money in the bank until there’s a solid plan for it.

“I think if we had a staff, that would work real well,” said board member Bev Bradshaw. “But we don’t have a staff. … We don’t have planners.”

Council did approve a $20,000 contribution toward the foundation’s administration costs, which amount to about $55,000 a year for a part-time director, office supplies, marketing and miscellaneous items. Most grants can’t be used for such expenses, so the foundation has to rely on participating municipalities and the generosity of the public.

“But there’s no way Joe Blow riding his bike out there is going to give us $100,000,” said Flowers.

SSPF was spearheaded in 1979 by Mary Carter, then the mayor of Bow Mar, to support open-space projects in the south-metro area. Today its focus is on completing the network of trails, particularly east-west connections.

“Some people think gosh, the trails are so busy now,” said Bradshaw. “But isn’t that a wonderful problem to have, that you build trails and people use them?” She said having more would likely lighten the load on others.

SSPF’s big project right now is in Centennial, linking deKoevend Park on University Boulevard to Holly Park on Colorado Boulevard. But it hasn’t forgotten about the Littleton Community Trail, which will run along the City Ditch and complete a circle around the city. It’s been a goal for several years, as the city has worked with various entities to acquire land.

“One of the great successes we’ve had is bringing groups together that don’t necessarily want to work together,” said Flowers.

Entities that support the foundation include South Suburban Parks and Recreation and its member cities, Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, Urban Drainage and Flood Control District and many more.

“Littleton has been a great partner and carried probably more than our fair share,” said Brinkman.

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