From My Window… Recreation districts a real bonus; Fall Festival for all

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Sean McMahon, Editor
Sean McMahon, Editor
I’ve been around in this business for a long time.
I favor some of the old-fashioned ways, but I try to keep an open mind on the new ways of thinking.
I left Wyoming in 1987 and returned to Colorado in early 2013 to a different world.
Now that I am back in Colorado after many years away, the concept of the Western and Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan recreation districts in Rangely and Meeker, respectively, were a mystery to me in theory and in reality.
As an outsider used to the way “things used to be,” it was disappointing, I thought at first, that the disbursements of county property taxes to the county to take care of county-related issues have in recent years been diverted to these recreation districts.
After all, using the ERBM Recreation and Park District in Meeker as an example, the district received $4.9 million as its general operating budget for 2013. Of that amount, 95 percent or $4.69 million came from property taxes on oil, gas and mineral extraction properties in the county, three percent came from residential property taxes and two percent came from business property taxes.
Why, I wondered, not just turn this money over to the county as was done in earlier times, such as the 1970’s and ’80s — if not later.
But the more I saw, the picture became less clear.
Even back in the past, when property tax funds went directly to a county’s coffers, the funds paid for county operations, which ran the gamut from law enforcement to highway upkeep and some was spent on county property, including a few county parks.
It didn’t go to some recreation center, that was for sure!
But the more I see of the rec districts’ activities, the more impressed I am with those groups and see why they get the funding they do.
They indeed help to improve the quality of life for those in the two towns in Rio Blanco.
I thought when I first came here that the rec districts hardly represented those residents who are older than 50 — and there are quite a few of those, possibly a majority of county residents.
I thought that proportionately few will be using the pool or the other exercise facilities and that it was kind of a waste for them since they won’t benefit.
But watching the districts, mostly Meeker firsthand, do all that they do besides run the recreation center is truly impressive.
Roughly 300 people were in attendance at the dedication of Sanderson Park on Saturday, and I would bet that more than 30 percent of those were nearing 50 or above, meaning they touched us “older folks” with their outreach.
But when you go back and look at the movies on the courthouse lawn, the assistance at the Rio Blanco County Fair and at Range Call with all the activities they did on the Fourth of July, then you throw in the Community Appreciation Day, you can clearly see what these districts do for all residents in the area and that their outreach touches all ages even outside the rec centers.
I spent a couple of days at Rangely’s Septemberfest three weeks ago, and nearly everything that went on there was put on by the Rangely recreation district (WRBM) and its crews. As in Meeker, the Rangely folks were friendly, professional and put on a show that certainly touched all age groups.
I don’t know what the solution is to getting more of the property tax funds back to the county coffers, but it would be tough to justify taking it back from the recreation districts.
They will touch all county residents directly if the residents will let them, and they are raising the quality of life for those who take part in their activities.
This is a big salute to the county for doing what it can with the funds available, and a grand salute to the Eastern and Western Rio Blanco Metropolitan recreation districts.
They are both good stewards of what they receive and do what they can to improve the quality of life as funds will allow.
The recreation districts seem to be involved in nearly all activities in the communities, and that sounds like a pretty good investment all around.
Sometimes the new ways are the better ways!
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I took a drive way up County Road (CR)8 on Saturday. I had been as far as Lake Avery many times, but never past there. I ventured up to mile marker 37, which is way past Buford, for the first time and I can report that while there are spotty areas of color change in Rangely and Meeker, the change has started big time at the higher elevations.
There were signs of the change everywhere, and often it was the aspens along the roadside that were bright yellow while the aspens quite a bit higher on the mountain sides still had that solid light green look.
I am not expert on when the height of the color change will take place, but I can tell you it has started and that the peak can’t be much more than a couple of weeks away.
After the colors change, winter won’t be far behind as snow is already being reported on Pike’s Peak and Loveland Pass.
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I am looking forward to a busy Saturday this week with the Mountain Valley Bank’s Fall Festival, co-sponsored by the Eastern Rio Blanco Recreation and Park District and White River Electric Association (WREA).
Games, food and a new prize-winning twist will greet participants as the sponsors combine efforts to help all the non-profit or fund-raiser organizations in Meeker raise funds needed to help them accomplish their missions.
In the past couple of years, the 10-year-old event has helped these organizations raise between $12,000 and $15,000.
But the money isn’t raised just by asking people to donate. The funds are raised by the groups offering a wide variety of food and drink and a wide selection of games.
The event is geared to all ages, from the young infant, the young children, teenagers, young couples and includes activities that include us “older folks.”
This is truly a community event and a chance to help out our friends and neighbors busy with these non-profit groups, which are always giving back to the community.
Also this year, winning at the games will result in tickets being given to the contestants, and those tickets can be turned in for prizes.
This is a great time for Meekerites (and visitors and hunters) to get out, enjoy what will hopefully be a great day, eat some great food (the variety promises to be impressive), see your neighbors and possibly meet some new friends.
See you there!