The Arapahoe Park and Recreation District (APRD) was formed in 1982 by the Arapahoe County Commissioners and area land holders for planning, acquiring, developing, maintaining and programming parks, open space, trails and recreational amenities for the residents of unincorporated Arapahoe County (City of Centennial) that were not being served by adjacent entities. The District’s Service Plan anticipates approximately 100 acres of developed parks, 500 acres of natural open space, and 17 miles of paved trails.
APRD’s boundaries have expanded since it’s formation due to inclusions of surrounding developments that wanted the convenience of large scale operations. The current boundary includes approximately 11.5 square miles and approximately
55,000 residents. The population is expected to grow to approximately
70,000 residents upon build-out.
APRD is governed by an elected Board of Directors who represent seven wards within the District. Wards are divided by population, which periodically change as the District grows. APRD assesses a
6.882 mill property tax. Of that amount, 2.882 mills
generates approximately $1,399,936 for the payment
of the bond debt approved by the voters to build the
Trails Recreation Center. The other 4.0 mills
generates approximately $1,943,007 per year which is used for park and trail development
(new construction), maintenance of existing parks, and administration. APRD receives approximately $250,000 from the Conservation Trust Fund which is funded from Lottery revenue.
APRD is an active participant in applications for
grant funding. Grants from the Arapahoe County
Open Space Program and GOCO have been instrumental
in assisting APRD in the construction of new parks
APRD is a relatively young park district, but
growing along with residential development. The
District has developed 22 parks, 15 miles of trails,
the Trails Recreation Center, Lookout Park and Pool,
the APRD Skate Park and maintains over 300 acres of
natural areas. The District shares elementary school
play fields under a joint-use agreement with Cherry
Creek School District at in-district (9)
elementary school locations.
How does APRD acquire open space?
Land developers are required by Senate Bill 35 to dedicate approximately 10% of their gross land area for public use. When a development is proposed to the local governing entity (Arapahoe County and City of Centennial), the plans are reviewed by several public agencies who have input on the layout and designation of the design. Developers typically meet with these entities prior to drafting their plans in order to accommodate the necessary schools, parks, trails, fire stations, libraries and drainage facilities required of their development.
APRD was required to file a Service Plan when organized in 1982. This plan generally laid out the open space, trails and parks that would be required upon build-out. The plan was based on national standards for open space and park amenities. These standards were modified to reflect the local preferences and conditions, such as fewer public swimming pools due to the number of private HOA swimming pools.
Generally, open space follows drainage corridors. These corridors provide trail opportunities with minimal road and housing interference, wildlife viewing, lush vegetation and, where terrain permits, park improvements. Because streams will flood and erode, the land is typically owned by the East Cherry Creek Water and Sanitation District (ECCVWSD) and maintained by APRD. Park use is compatible with occasional flooding, however, considerable engineering is necessary to minimize the risk.
The other open space opportunity was to coordinate with the Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) on placing neighborhood parks adjacent to elementary schools. Elementary schools typically occur within each square mile of land, and are generally centered in the neighborhood for easy access. APRD and CCSD planned most of the school/park sites prior to 1982 in order to optimize the locations and size of these sites. Elementary schools typically are 10 acres, whereas, in the CCSD, the sites are considerably larger with soccer and baseball fields due to combining the park site next to the school site. The playfields are used during the school hours by students, and are seasonally scheduled by APRD for organized sports after school hours.
Other specialized parks are acquired for recreation centers, swimming pools and skate board parks where access, terrain and utilities dictate the need for unique sites.
Since 1982, when APRD was 95% undeveloped, the Service Plan has been guiding the acquisition and development of open space which will be in place forever.
How does APRD develop parks and trails?
As discussed above, APRD follows a master plan for recreational amenities based on modified national standards. The pace of residential development dictates the pace of recreational development. With more demand for recreation, and with more tax revenue generated from the growth of residential development, the APRD Board of Directors can determine where and when parks are developed.
Park design typically begins with a land survey. The land survey guides the park planners and engineers in developing various layouts for park improvements. These plans are reviewed at public meetings, discussed and revised as appropriate to each specific site. APRD is required to ‘process’ park plans through the local governmental jurisdiction. The process APRD applies for is called a Location and Extent plan. This is a rigorous, many month long process that requires APRD to prepare detailed plans and studies as required by Arapahoe County or the City of Centennial so that their Planning Commission, with assistance from their planning and engineering staff, can determine the appropriateness of the planned improvements for the site.
The Location and Extent process requires a ‘referral’ action whereby interested agencies, groups and surrounding landowners may express their opinions and/or comments on the park development plan. The site is ‘posted’ well in advance of scheduled hearings announcing the time and date of the Planning Commission meeting. This is a process similar to that required of residential developers.