By Ali Rhodes
There have been recent discussions in this space about Boulder Reservoir, and I write today in the hope of providing some helpful context.
I would like to start by explaining the purpose of this beloved place. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department (BPR) began developing a master plan (BRMP) for the reservoir in 2009 and, with community input over three years, developed a plan including a vision and goals for The reservoir. These objectives include providing a range of high quality recreational uses, events, facilities and services that are inclusive of the whole community, while protecting the natural environment and wildlife in the area of 800 acres managed by BPR.
The BRMP also acknowledged that the main facility serving visitors to the reservoir was past its life cycle and recommended planning for its replacement. When planning the new Visitor Services Center, community engagement with numerous stakeholders, user groups and community members informed a set of goals for the facility. The final concept plan, approved by the Parks Recreation and Advisory Board (PRAB) in January 2017, includes the creation of a welcoming, family-friendly space and a multipurpose space that could be used for a variety of events, including events fundraising for community non-profit organizations. A second agreed-upon goal was to expand the franchise offerings with possibly obtaining a liquor license for the site and exploring a partnership with a larger-scale concessionaire. For those who may not be aware, PRAB is made up of seven community members appointed by the city council.
With the approval of the concept plan, we began designing the new building and exploring a hosting partnership to help us achieve these goals. In winter 2020, PRAB and City Council approved a lease with local operators which is intended to ensure that in partnership we serve the community.
BPR has been working since September 2020 to respond to comments and questions about the perceived negative impacts of the new partnership, to build trust with neighbors, and to ensure communication with neighbors and reservoir stakeholders. This outreach included engaging with neighbors who served as communication liaisons, arranging on-site meet and greets, responding to concerns raised at public meetings, and convening virtual meetings to understand concerns. and develop solutions.
Concerns from neighbors have been investigated and addressed with adjustments made to eliminate or minimize impacts, but some continue to express concern that activities at the reservoir are negatively impacting the rural character of the area, nearby wildlife, or Security. BPR is committed to respecting the commitments made so that these concerns are allayed. For example, we have purchased sound equipment to monitor and record sound levels and have tested restaurant sound levels to ensure they are not audible in sensitive wildlife areas.
In April 2021, recognizing the need to establish a better relationship with the neighbors of the reservoir, the PRAB approved a Good Neighbor Commitment, with the aim of establishing strong two-way communication with the neighbors of the reservoir by documenting the communication engagements of BPR and providing a clear process for sharing feedback on tank operations.
The Visitor Services Center is now complete and open to the community, and visitors to the reservoir can purchase concessions at Driftwind. Community organizations applied for the special license to serve alcohol at their events, which was approved by the Beverage Licensing Authority (BLA). The BLA consists of five community members appointed by the city council.
BPR has listened carefully to community concerns and feedback since 2009 during the development of the Reservoir Master Plan, the Visitor Services Center concept plan, and the development of leases with the restaurant. We have moved our operations and developed what we believe are reasonable solutions that benefit the community as a whole and the reservoir’s 300,000 annual visitors.
We intend to continue working to achieve the community plans for all reservoir operations while realizing the vision of making the reservoir a place for appropriate, high quality recreational activities and to manage and maintain it from a manner consistent with the preservation and improvement of the environment.
In short, we believe we can achieve a balance between operating the reservoir for recreational and community gathering purposes and respecting the natural setting and wildlife.
Ali Rhodes is Director of Parks and Recreation for Boulder