Undeveloped Parks Languish While City Pursues an Events Center

Matchett Park – Despite the City of Grand Junction putting on a community-wide planning effort in 2014 that resulted in a master plan and preferred alternative for development, and despite the City getting a GOCO grant to cover 75% of the cost it’s construction, nothing ever happened at Matchett Park

The City of Grand Junction owns a number of large land parcels around the valley that are designated as parks, but that are little more than vacant lots unused by the public.

“Saccomano Park” is a beautiful 31 acre lot at the corner of 26 1/2 and H Roads, kitty corner to the Paradise Hills subdivision. It boasts expansive 360 degree views, but doesn’t do much good to it’s surrounding neighborhood because there isn’t even a walking path around the parcel. The City leases the land to farmer who raises corn on it.

“Burkey Park” is a 17 1/2-acre vacant lot just north of Patterson Road and east of the Oxbow Subdivision. It’s only feature is a split rail fence along Patterson, a blue “City of Grand Junction” plastic trash can and a parking area big enough for one car. That’s it.

“Burkey Park North” is a dry vacant lot with a trash can and split rail fence

“Horizon Park” is a 12 1/2 acre parcel on the west side of 27 Road (north 12th Street) between G and G 1/2 Roads. It has beautiful views of the Grand Mesa, a few volunteer elm trees and a crude dirt road around the edges. Currently the City uses Horizon Park to store gravel to be used to chip-seal streets. There isn’t even so much as a bench to sit on there.

The Dropped Promise to Develop Matchett Park

And then there’s the huge, unfulfilled promise of “Matchett Park,” the 205-acre parcel north of Patterson and 28 1/4 Roads.

The City acquired the Matchett property in 1996. It has been sitting undeveloped ever since — for 21 years now. Five years ago, in 2012, the City declared there was a “pressing need” for more parks in town, and directed City staff to create a master plan for development of the Matchett property. It was to be the City’s largest and most complete park. The City conducted an online survey about the proposed park, to which over 1,900 people responded. Sixty one percent of survey respondents said their single most-desired feature was a community recreation center. The City held extensive public meetings over a period of months that hundreds of people actually attended. Ultimately, after much study, planning and deliberation, the City produced a master plan (pdf) for a terrific park with two ponds, nature trails, a dog park, a disc golf course, volleyball courts, a grand lawn and the long-sought-after community recreation center.  According to the City’s website, the city even got a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to fund 75% of the cost of building the new park,

All that planning and the creation of the master plan was done back in 2014.

So what’s happened since then?

Nothing.

Zip.

Nada.

Why hasn’t anything happened?

Not enough funding, according to City Parks and Recreation Department.

“Saccomano Park” is a 31 acre field at the SW corner of 26 1/2 and H Roads. It’s a corn field and unusable as a park.

More Parks: A Perpetual Promise Dangled Before Residents of the City of Grand Junction

The City already owns multiple undeveloped parklands in high-need areas. Council long ago identified a pressing need for new parks, did all the legwork to develop Matchett Park into a fabulous jewel of a park, generated fanfare and hoopla over the project and even obtained three quarters of the funding to pull it off. So what did the City do then?

Put a measure on the ballot seeking funds to build… an events center downtown?

Talk about taking your eye off the ball.

It seems City Council has gotten distracted by a new and shiny object.

Why are parks important?

Parks confer tremendous physical and psychological benefits upon communities. They help boost mental and physical health, reduce people’s stress, help get kids outside, provide places for parents to bond with children, provide places where neighborhood residents can get out and interact with each other, provide places for lonely people to get out and be with other people. Parks help decrease crime rates among youth, preserve natural ecosystems and make a town more beautiful and inviting. They also increase property values for properties near the parks.

Can you imagine what your childhood would have been like without a park? How many of your childhood memories took place in a park? Many Grand Junction children don’t have access to parks, and that’s a big minus not just for existing community members, but for attracting a talented workforce as well.

People need parks.

The only problem with parks is, they don’t generate big profits for many area businesses. Their benefits are less tangible and more specific to the quality of life of regular working people. Those benefits are no less important, but they have been treated as far less important by the powerful people in town who can make things happen — or not.

Sure, an events center would be great if implicit promises hadn’t already been made years ago to develop the Matchett property into a terrific and much-needed park, including a community center, and if city council hadn’t put other quality-of-life projects perpetually put on the back burner.

It would’ve been much more fair to citizens if the City had said “no” to the events center proposal until after they finished developing Matchett Park, which was on the front burner until City council got distracted by the next shiny object.

Parks may not have the direct effect of making local business owners more successful, but they do increase city residents’ overall satisfaction and physical and mental health, and in order to get more respect and commitment to town from residents, sometimes you have to invest in amenities that enhance peoples’ lives here, and not concentrate so much solely on enhancing the fortunes of local business owners to the exception of all else.

A word cloud indicates the most-requested features and facilities the public said they’d like to see in Matchett Park (taken from the Matchett Park Master Plan). The largest print reflects the most-requested amenities.

4 comments for “Undeveloped Parks Languish While City Pursues an Events Center

  1. anthony j russo
    July 7, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    I think it disgraceful that this city cant build a Rec Center!! I am a year long member at the indoor pool but l would love to have a Rec Center; find a way to build it!

  2. William Springer
    April 16, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    This is a great write up, However you forgot to mention that for more than 50 + years now the citizens of the city of Grand Junction have been paying additional tax specifically for the development and maintenance of open space parks in which none to very few have been developed.Additionally most of the land that they acquired was thru manipulation and requirements forced Upon property sales by land owners to provide any where from 10% to now a whopping 20% of the land area for sale specifically for the purpose of such areas as outlined in the city charter in which it states improvement for the betterment of its citizens as a whole and preserving the spirit of the county of Mesa Co. and the State of Co. which is one of openness,Splendor,Grandour,abundant wildlife and the freedom that goes along with it. Also whenever any purchase is made with in city limits you are charged an additional higher tax in which a portion of it is for improvements for infrastructure and property specifically dedicated and outlined as parks.If you purchased a home or property in the city you also were charged an additional surcharge at time of purchase for the same reason. Primarily due to the aspect of its much wanted and desired need by its very residence and citizens.Not only is it very sad that the City officials are unwilling or unable to provide its citizens with the overwhelming desire for such areas It is completely unacceptable for them as residences to relinquish the property’s to be sold at a profit for the city to redistribute the funds for a different property of which a portion of it also needs to be sold in order to supposedly make improvements on the remainders. Both properties are outlined and designated in the city’s master development plan one of them has been there for more than 50+ years (Burkey park) and the other for more than 10+ years (Matchett park) after all they were acquired for free and we all have paid for there development since there conception.It seams to me that the majority of the City’s citizens do not know where they reside or why they are even here? They must have all said “ Wow this is just like New York City.or Las Angles, or Chicago, or Denver ,or where ever they came from.But smaller. I just love the urban sprawl I wish they would just get rid of all this beauty so I’m more comfortable living here,all this openness is just ridiculous,I want more confined space that’s congested ,with a government that will do nothing for me except raise my taxes then it will feel more like home”. Burkey Park will need to go through a zoning change before it can change its current park designation as described on the zoning map to sell it. I for one will vote against the change to occur, If you are one of the welcomed citizens here that actually knows where you are and why you chose to reside here then I encourage you to do the same. If you are on the other side of the fence then I encourage you to do the rest of us a favor and pack your belongings and move back to where your more at home. Because the rest of us GET IT!

  3. KaraLee Boudreaux
    March 9, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    It’s a corn field for Olathe Sweet Corn which we all know brings in illegals by the busloads into Olathe & hidden at Olathe’s Catholic church.

    • Anne Landman
      March 9, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      I think it’s feed corn, not Olathe sweet. They let it dry out a long time at the end of the season before harvesting. The term “illegals” is used to dehumanize immigrants and divorce people from thinking of immigrants as human beings. They are human beings.

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