Boulder will need to make difficult trade-offs in the future about what services and facilities its Parks and Recreation Department will provide, City Council and parks advisory board members said Tuesday night.

The joint study session was part of the process of revising the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, expected to be completed next fall.

A survey of comparable cities and others in the region found that Boulder does better than average in many areas, including having more swimming pools, playgrounds and dog parks than the regional median.

However, Boulder lags behind the regional median in baseball diamonds and multi-use fields.

How much Boulder should do to rectify that imbalance and at what potential cost to other parks and recreation facilities is likely to be a big topic of discussion as the master plan process continues.

Parks board member Kelly Wyatt said she travels to other communities almost every weekend for her children's sports activities. In particular, there is a shortage of hard courts for basketball and volleyball as well as baseball diamonds, she said.

"We're a green city, but every weekend, I travel out of the city to keep my kids physically active," she said.

Councilman George Karakehian said developing fields that could host tournaments could bring more visitors to Boulder and promote the local economy.


But other parks board and council members pointed to the high cost of building and maintaining ball fields and the heavy wear and tear that tournaments and regular practices take.

"If we're going to build more fields and have outsiders bring in tournaments, is there a way for them to not just cover the impact that they have but also subsidize the local use?" Councilwoman Suzanne Jones said.

Parks board member Richard Thayer said the master plan revision is an opportunity for the city to invite the community to make hard trade-offs.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Chairman Bob Yates pointed to the Boulder Reservoir Master Plan process as a model.

When the department held open houses, not many people came, but when the city proposed banning motorized boating on the reservoir, the crowds overflowed. Once people were engaged, the long, slow process of negotiating the eventual policies for the reservoir could begin with all the stakeholders at the table, Yates said.

"And everyone was happy?" asked Councilman Tim Plass.

"Everyone was a little bit unhappy," Yates said. "We managed to hit that sweet spot."

Yates said the parks department may put some controversial ideas before the public as part of the master plan process.

"We'll have people show up and tell us we're idiots and then, through a very negotiated process, we'll come up with some trade-offs to present to you," he said.

The desire for more ball fields needs to be balanced against maintaining existing facilities, expanding youth programming, keeping classes and facilities affordable for low-income residents and building neighborhood and regional parks.

The City Council members said they want the parks department to do more to reach out to minority groups and teenagers as part of the master plan process and look for innovative ways to raise money.

The parks department plans to hold additional community meetings and open houses in the spring before finalizing the draft master plan. That draft will then go to the parks advisory board and Planning Board before returning to the City Council in the fall.