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Quality of life worth every penny

In addition to small-town charm, Boulder City’s spectacular quality-of-life amenities are among the main things that attract people to live here and visit us.

But we often take our amenities for granted, sometimes assuming that they’re free just because the full cost isn’t directly charged back to us.

Our library, senior center, airport, schools and hospital are prime examples. Unlike utilities, you and I don’t receive a monthly invoice reminding us to pay for those. And although we might not regularly use all of them, just imagine how different Boulder City would be without even one.

Our Parks and Recreation Department manages many other low-cost amenities. Our swimming pool, parks, golf courses, recreation center, fitness facilities, gyms, community gardens and ABC classrooms come to mind.

You and I use many of those cost-free or only for a nominal fee. But my service on City Council frequently reminded me that they aren’t free. Each one costs a pretty penny to build and maintain.

Take Veterans’ Memorial Park, for instance. Its 19.5 acres of turf take about 14.5 hours and over $700 to mow each time. Powering those facilities and lighting the fields can exceed $30 to $45 per day. And daily water costs for the ballfields, fish ponds, splash park, restrooms and general irrigation approach $300 or more.

Those costs might seem small when viewed microscopically. But they add up to over $100,000 in utilities annually, plus tens of thousands more for maintenance.

And that’s just one park. Multiply those figures many times over to account for scores of other amazing parks and recreation facilities.

Is it worth it? Absolutely. Without these facilities, we could never market our town as “A World Away for a Day” or “Clean, Green Boulder City.” And but for these awesome amenities, many of us would never have moved our families here or chosen to remain.

Public service regularly reminded me that there’s a constant tug-of-war between balancing the budget and providing first-class amenities to our community. Much of that happens behind the scenes, but recently we’ve all seen the struggle play out in high-profile fashion with our pool.

Should we build a new aquatics center to replace our outdated one? And if so, what should it include and how many millions are we willing to spend on a facility that we know will never pay for itself?

On a smaller scale, I’ve repeatedly heard coaches and parents question why the city charges practice field fees and up to $50 an hour for lights. The answer should be obvious given the cost of maintenance and utilities mentioned above. Plus, the city already subsidizes Boulder City Little League about $25,000 per season to make fields available for games. It also discounts practice field fees for local teams, charging nonresidents more. Exemptions are available to local nonprofits as well.

So, the real question that I think I’m hearing is, shouldn’t the city just make our fields available to locals for free? After all, like the pool, we know that user fees will never even come close to covering all costs anyway. That’s a legitimate question that defies easy answers. And one that’s more complex than it superficially might appear.

Waiving fees for residents is certainly a policy decision our city leaders could make if deemed important enough to our citizens. Nonprofits and outside sources might also step up to help cover costs. It really just comes down to how strongly we feel about the trade-off between pinching every penny, on one hand, versus providing low-cost quality-of-life amenities, on the other.

One thing I know for sure is that our parks and recreation staff does an exceptional job of balancing their limited budget and still providing stellar programs and amenities to our citizens.

Post-COVID golf course revenues are up again, and special events like Art in the Park have come back strong. Our gyms have been converted to LED lights, many parks have been upgraded to include sensory playground equipment, and soon we can expect pickleball lines at the Broadbent Park tennis courts and extra concrete behind the Whalen Field bleachers where baseball fans can enjoy games from their lawn chairs.

I understand the need for turf reduction and drought-tolerant landscaping in underused areas. I understand that generally projects should be self-sustaining and pay for themselves.

And I understand that fiscal responsibility should always be a top priority. But let’s not overdo it with extreme austerity or forget that many indirect benefits flow to our citizens and businesses from our fabulous amenities and clean, green image. The slogan “Brown Town” doesn’t sound too attractive, and I doubt anyone will visit us for Art in the Wilderness. So, please join me in doing all we can to support our Parks and Recreation Department and keep Boulder City clean, green and attractive for generations to come.

The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited solely for grammar, spelling and style, and have not been checked for accuracy of the viewpoints.

Rod Woodbury has resided in Boulder City for more than 40 years and is the president and managing shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law. He served on the City Council from 2011- 2019, including four years as mayor.

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