Huck Finn Park Tallies Another $350,000!
Leadville’s Huck Finn Park Project (HFPP) was awarded $350,000 by The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board at its meeting on Dec. 11. The park’s renovation was one of 45 projects from across the state which benefited from $6.2 million of Lottery proceeds distributed by GOCO.
GOCO is the result of an initiative passed by state voters in 1992, mandating that approximately half of Colorado Lottery proceeds – $57 million in Fiscal Year 2012 – be used to preserve, protect and enhance the state’s wildlife, parks, rivers, trails and open spaces at no cost to taxpayers. Since 1994, nearly 3,500 projects in all 64 Colorado counties have benefited from these funds, and now Leadville’s Huck Finn Park Project (HFPP) can be added to that list. CLICK for complete list of GOCO Fall awards.
“I’m pleased that this grant is the lynch pin allowing us to break ground in the spring,” stated Lake County Commissioner Mike Bordogna. “It’s been an incredible test of patience and volunteer dedication for the folks on the committee who have made this project a success so far.”
Leaf Treinen, Greg Race and Carrie Mallozzi are the core people who have spearheaded the HFPP from the beginning.
The goal? According to the Skate Leadville website: To build a concrete skatepark close to 21,000 square feet, repair the tennis courts, and get our Zamboni a house by the summer of 2013.
“We’re so excited,” shared Treinen upon hearing the GOCO awards announcement. “Our park is going to start happening next Spring.”
“We can break ground on Phase One which is the skate park, the warming hut and the tennis courts,” added Race. Good thing too, as the demand for GOCO funding continues to dramatically outpace available dollars. Huck Fin was one of 116 applications for the Fall cycle.
This is one more GIANT step toward the $870,000 budgeted fund-raising goal of the HFPP. Earlier this year, the project was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Tony Hawk Foundation. For a full list of fundraising efforts, please see the Skate Leadville website.
There’s little doubt that the $350,000 GOCO award – half of the $700,000 in the project’s coffers – has refueled community interest and commitment.
“We are deeply grateful for this grant opportunity,” stated HFPP organizers in a recent press release. “However we still have a goal to reach in order to build our new park building complete with restrooms – we still need to raise another $170,000.”
But before going into detail about the exciting HFPP upgrades involved, perhaps some points of reference and background about the area are needed.
WHERE is Huck Finn Park?
Ironically it’s the most basic question that gets a chuckle out of HFPP committee member Greg Race. “We don’t have a legal address (for the park),” he jokes. And most locals will understand why if they’re familiar with the area: “kinda, sorta half way between 5th, 6th and 4th Streets and from Leiter down.”
The Huck Finn Park Project
WHAT are the plans for Huck Finn Park?
When it comes to Recreation Master Plans, skating has always risen to the top: ice skating, roller skating, skate boarding. But the vision for HFPP and the surrounding area has always been bigger than that. After all, that whole recreational area, sits in the heart of Leadville. It’s just a few blocks off main street and adjacent to Pitts Elementary School. It’s central to everything.
So, Treinen, Mallozzi and Race, at the initiative of the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), the Recreation Advisory Board (RAB) and the Partnership for Lake County Recreation (PLCR), were asked to spearhead the Huck Finn Park Project, to be the principals on the project. While they were enthusiastic about the prospect, they were also cautious about that “left-holding-the-bag” feeling that comes when the hard work kicks into high gear. Fortunately, this core group continues to move the project forward with support from community volunteers.
However, it didn’t take long for the group to discover that when it comes to funding recreation, Lake County doesn’t exactly follow the standard model.
“Most other places have a recreation taxing district set up that deal with recreation centers, that deal with building parks,” explains Race who moved to Leadville in the mid 1990s. “Here, whoever wants to volunteer, get their hands dirty and work hard, is pretty much free to do so,” Race said, sharing his take on how Lake County Recreation is being developed.
Additionally, fiercely independent Lake County residents do not take the prospect of taxation lightly. Would they even approve a recreation district? Maybe the recent 3A school bond passed by voters in November may indicate a turning of the tide with the recent influx of young families to the area.
But for the time being, this is the local recreation planning model. And while the county’s formula may be challenging, requiring committed volunteers and grant monies, it IS working. Another apparent upside to shoe string budgets, is utilizing “real-life” Lake County recreation projects as test-case-scenarios in the classrooms of higher education.
In fact, it was suggested by a GOCO representative that the local HFPP group make contact with a University of Colorado Denver (UCD) Professor’s landscape architecture class, hoping to create just that type of relationship. The committee wasted no time in taking advantage of the opportunity, a decision that may have tipped the GOCO decision, as the project came to life via the students drawings, sketches and conceptual plans.
ENTER Chris Schooler a UCD Professor at Denver College of Architecture and Planning.
“I’m a landscape architect and I work with landscape architecture students,” said Schooler during an interview with Leadville Today. “So it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to present a design scenario to the graduate students, to help come up with a master plan for the park.”
So 12 grad students were split into three design teams. These are not your average students – this is an upper level advanced studio, meaning that these are third year students. One student – it’s worth mentioning – was also a High Mountain Institute (HMI) graduate, located here in Lake County.
“These students have been the cream of the crop over the last several years,” explained Schooler, describing how he split them into three groups of four to create a healthy competition as they headed into the design phase. The result is three master plans for the Huck Finn Park Project that will hopefully be united in a singular design as the project moves into the construction phase this Spring.
“As it (Huck Finn Park) exists right now, that space is really fragmented and really underutilized,” stated Race. But it’s also a place that residents hold dear for generations now. Many Leadville natives actually remember when they stocked fish in Huck Finn pond and kids fished there daily.
During a recent conversation with Leadville native and life-long public servant Carl Miller some of the park’s history was revealed.
“When I was commissioner (late 70s), we had put in those tennis courts and they were so popular,” explained Miller speaking about the park’s evolving use. “Everyone was urging us to put more tennis courts in, but we never did and eventually the sport’s popularity died down.” For others who’ve been around a while, the memory of a drowning in the late 70s of a local kid is now reflected in the dried up pond, surrounded by barbed wire fence to keep kids out.
“It’s a blessing and a challenge, when you’re talking about changing use or rethinking public space. Different experiences and different memories can lead to division or you can search for the commonality and that’s what Huck Finn is striving for,” explained HFPP Organizer Greg Race. But as the design of the park evolves, those are the details that will be worked out. And the public is invited to share their views.
“What we’re hoping to do is be good facilitators and help create something that people may not have realized they that they could do here,” commented Race. “We don’t have to settle for less. We can create what we want to here. Yes, it takes initiative, it takes hard work, it takes vision and planning, and follow through, but there’s no reason we can’t create something that will flourish for generations to come,” he concluded.
If you are interested in becoming involved with this great community project, the public is invited to attend the next meeting on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 at 5 p.m. in the commissioner’s meeting room in the courthouse. Or if you can’t make that meeting but will have time this spring or summer when you are in town, please contact Greg Race, Carrie Mallozzi or Leaf Treinen at 719-486-3498 or email at skateleadville@yahoo.