Observations On A County Project

Los Alamos

I attended a focus group in January and listened in on an Internal Department Review Committee in April concerning potential Acid, Pueblo, and Walnut Canyon developments that were said to be related to a desire to provide a “bike skills park”, a bike racing competition venue, and another high bridge over Pueblo Canyon to make it faster to travel from the roundabout to town via trails.

First, because I suspect the inputs and concerns I expressed in the focus group were grouped into a category referred to in one of the meetings as input from “old-timers who don’t want change”, let me clarify that I fully support the idea of a bike skills park, maintaining the trail system for multiple-use, and for improving youth-oriented recreational amenities in the community.  These are not my concerns with what I experienced in the meetings.

However, I have a big problem with a project that presented a location without any discussion of pros/cons of location alternatives.  It is unclear what alternatives were considered and what public process was used to evaluate the alternatives.  As far as I can tell there was no inclusive public process.  There was discussion about the chosen location’s closeness to schools, downtown, Aquatic Center, etc. but these justifications were not at all compelling in the absence of any serious discussion of alternatives.  There was no interest in hearing discussion of issues with the location or location alternatives.  Also, there was no apparent consideration by the presenting consultant about the potential impacts on other trail users and how those impacts will be mitigated.  Involving stakeholders other than proponents of the idea in the focus groups seemed to me to be an afterthought meant to justify a claim of public involvement in the process.

I am for consideration of recreational amenities for youth in the community.  This is a good thing to do — but so is proper consideration of locations, priorities, and potential impacts on other stakeholders/users.  I have asked the County and County Council to undertake a reasonable and inclusive public process for identifying and evaluating alternative locations to study for these uses prior to further proceeding on any plans.  A helpful planning process would present discussion and solicit broad public input on the potential scope of the project, the requirements for good locations, and location alternatives (pros/cons).

Another concern that was raised by my participation is that there does not seem to be any appreciation expressed by the County project personnel for the concept of passive use of open spaces.  The attitude seems to be that open space has little value if it is not programmed and developed for active recreation uses.  This is a gross misinterpretation of the concept of open space and the community values relating to open space that are expressed in the Comprehensive Plan.  Maybe the County has lost track of the intent of the open space priorities that are embedded in the Comprehensive Plan as people have turned over since it was developed and adopted?

Again, I am for developing ideas for recreational amenities for youth in the community, but I consider it important that it be done through inclusive public processes.  I hope I am not wrong that the County government commit itself to doing so.