Our Family has had many long conversations with Aunt Mildred and Uncle Lew Burkey about the Land that was donated for a park! They donated that land in good faith that it would be used as a park and in no way would ever agree to the City Selling that property to developers! i have never understood the City’s reluctance to plan and build a nice park out of that property! I guess it doesn’t line anybody’s pockets!
— Reader comment on this article
City of Grand Junction Ballot Measure 2D, if approved by voters, would let the City sell off Burkey Park, and undeveloped 18-acre parcel of land along Patterson Road in the Fruitvale area surrounded by family homes that was donated to the City by the Burkey family in 1967, specifically for a park.
Last year the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel interviewed John Lewis Burkey, a surviving member of the Burkey family, about a potential ballot measure to sell off the land his family donated. Mr. Burkey’s grandfather, John W. Burkey, grandmother Mildred Burkey and great uncle Lewis Burkey were the ones who generously donated the 18 acre parcel on Patterson to the City.
The Daily Sentinel wrote:
John Lewis Burkey said his grandfather and great uncle would be “rolling their eyes” at the prospect of the city considering selling the land after a vote.
“I know if my grandfather or Uncle Lew were around they would be very disappointed,” Burkey said. “I really do know they would be against it. They were capitalists. If they wanted to sell something, they did. They gave back to the community. That’s the legacy they wanted to have.”
Burkey Park is just outside of city limits. For that reason, the City Planning Department told a local Fruitvale resident recently that it “will never be a priority for development.” The land use planning map would designate that land as “Residential Medium” if the city were allowed to actually sell it, said the planner. That means it would eventually turn into townhomes, apartments, or commercial/retail buildings instead of a park.
That was never the Burkey family’s intent.
This part of town, Fruitvale, really needs a park. Residents of the area around the park have been looking forward to having an actual park there for 50 years, but they will be denied the ability to vote on the measure to sell the land because they live outside City limits and won’t get a ballot. In the mean time, neighborhood kids have been using the empty lot in Burkey Park to drive remote control toys, fly kites, search for buried treasure and basically anything they can do in this dry field of goatheads.
No parks for you
While parkland donated to the City for free sits undeveloped decade after decade, the City has been shoveling millions of taxpayer dollars into inappropriate uses that have little to no benefit for City residents. At the same time, the City has been failing to act on a whole host of other ways to raise significant revenue — ways that could actually benefit the City, too — while avoiding increasing sales tax for City residents. The City could approve the sale of retail marijuana, which would benefit a whole host of supporting businesses, like hydroponic companies, security companies, bookkeeping, and agricultural equipment and sales. The City could tax the sale of cigarettes and vaping paraphernalia to help reduce their use, and levy a fee on single-use plastics like plastic grocery bags and disposable cups, to help save landfill space. They City could tax agricultural products that currently escape sales taxes, like livestock feed, and tax the sale of intangibles, like software and digital products.
There’s been little to no ingenuity on City Council when it comes to raising revenue. At the same time the City has been engaging in profligate spending on things that confer no direct benefit on City residents, like handing half a million dollars to CMU every year to help it buy land, or giving thousands of dollars every year to the Chamber of Commerce to get a table at the Chamber’s annual banquet.
One thing is for sure in the current political environment: If people want parks in their neighborhoods, they’re going to have to fight for them, and that includes by doing whatever they can to keep the City from selling off land that was donated to the City for that singular purpose by generous, community-minded people.