Silverthorne makes big updates to parks, open space and trails master plan
The town of Silverthorne has been working to update its parks, open space and trails master plan for more than a year, outlining the town’s existing conditions, as well as proposed amenities and upgrades. The plan was adopted by the Silverthorne Town Council at its meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 25.
The master plan features an updated inventory of the town’s outdoor recreational amenities, an updated recreational needs assessment and a new walkability and connectivity assessment that identifies connections that need improvement. The document will be referred back to for the next five to 10 years for all work the town does with its parks, open space and trails.
It also includes an evaluation comparing recreational amenities in Summit County as a whole and updated community demographic data, including visitor and second-home owner information. The new plan also modified the town’s goals and objectives, which now focus more on community values as opposed to promoting tourism and economic development.
Danelle Cook, a planner with the town who led the project, said this shift was one of the most important aspects of the plan.
“Our goal is to prioritize locals first, and then welcome visitors,” Cook said. “We believe that if the locals are happy and they have a high quality of life, that it will organically draw in the visitors that our economy depends on, and the visitor will in turn have a better experience while they’re here.”
The town updated the master plan as it has seen significant community changes over the past six years. Its population is changing with the addition of the Smith Ranch and Summit Sky Ranch communities, and the town saw increased use of its outdoor recreation resources with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Never before have our mountain communities seen such a need for places to recreate outdoors,” the master plan reads. “We learned during this time that outdoor spaces play a tremendous role in our community’s health and well-being. Resources must be diverse and accessible to all residents and user groups, providing respite from daily life, or in the case of 2020, a place to see friends and family members safely.”
Town staff worked with the Silverthorne Parks, Open Space, Recreation and Trails Committee to determine key issues from the 2014 plan that needed community input and identified key stakeholders to be part of the process in its first phase of revising the plan.
The town then took to the community to ask for feedback, placing comment cards in parks throughout the town and launching an online survey. The town also hosted two open houses to talk specifically about the Trent Park expansion project and one to look at all aspects of the master plan project.
The third phase was when the town started evaluating its outreach data, which was published on the town’s website. Melissa Sherburne, with Upland Consultants, was hired to put the committee and community’s feedback into the plan as the fourth phase. Sherburne helped the town finalize its 2014 iteration of the plan, too.
“This is a plan that people do pay attention to, and it’s very important for our community,” council member Mike Spry said in the meeting.
The master plan map outlines all of the town’s parks, open space and trail resources and is split into three planning areas. The first planning area encapsules the southernmost part of the town. Referred to in the plan as the “heart of Silverthorne,” this first area includes Rainbow Park, the Recreation Center and downtown. A network of pedestrian and biking improvements will aim to make this area walkable year-round to be more supportive of the arts and culture scene and commercial activity downtown.
“I think from a parks and open space perspective that the area around the performing arts center really anchors downtown and the connections to the Blue River Trail,” Sherburne said in the council meeting Wednesday. “Another biggie is the sidewalks around downtown making the whole area walkable and allowing that highway that runs downtown to kind of take a back seat to the real energy and vibrancy of the downtown.”
The second planning area is the more residential, local neighborhood portion of Silverthorne in the middle of town, with parks providing daily recreational activity to surrounding neighborhoods. A priority for this area will be expanding Trent Park and increasing connections with the Smith Ranch Neighborhood.
The third planning area includes the north part of town, with the biggest highlight being the new Maryland Creek Park. This park includes multi-use fields and a dog park open to the whole Summit County community.
“One of the most exciting aspects of completing a master plan update is moving what used to be future goals to the existing conditions category,” Cook said. “For example, when the 2014 post plan was adopted, Maryland Creek Park was just an idea on paper, and now we can celebrate it as an achievement along with several other achievements.”
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