Citizens advocate for a recreation center in Riverton; Council noted voters turned down funding twice

By Ernie Over, managing editor,

(Riverton, Wyo.) –  The issue of a recreation center for Riverton came up at Tuesday night’s regular city council meeting when a delegation appeared at the beginning of the meeting to advocate on behalf of the project.

Nikki Parker said she had heard about planned improvements for city park, which she said concerned her. “City Park is a great place to hold events, but a fountain, basketball and skatepark areas don’t benefit the community as a whole, just special groups,” she said. “We need to broaden ideas for all children she said, we need more recreational activities”

Parker also suggested a centralized recreation center could bring additional revenue to the town by staging statewide events.

During Tuesday night's Riverton  City Council meeting, Nikki Parker addressed the need for a new recreation center in Riverton rather than improvements at city park. (Ernie Over photo)

During Tuesday night’s Riverton City Council meeting, Nikki Parker addressed the need for a new recreation center in Riverton rather than improvements at city park. (Ernie Over photo)

“Figuring out a way to pay for a rec center is the problem,” said Mayor Ron Warpness. “Not only the construction but the maintenance and operation.” Noting that two separate attempts to fund a recreation center here had been voted down, the mayor said it would be hard sell to the county at large.

“Given the demographics of our county population with one third of the population in cities and towns, one third on the Wind River Reservation and one third rural, Lander and the rest of the county don’t give a rip about a rec center in Riverton,” Warpness said. “That’s why we were so fortunate to pass the one percent optional tax, it impacted all areas of the county.”

The mayor then gave his pitch for legislative action to allow individual cities and towns to tax themselves, rather than being lumped in with an entire county. “I’d vote for that in a heartbeat,” he said. “If you can figure out a way, we’re more than anxious to talk about it and make it happen, but given the economics we’re dealing with now… ”

Councilor Eric Heiser reiterated what the mayor had said. “The community has not shown support for this, we tried a tax twice and 60 percent said they are not in favor of a rec center. It’s heartbreaking, but that’s the reality of the situation that we are in,” he said.  Heiser also noted that Cody was able to build its recreation facility after a private donor contributed $7-million to the project. “We would need donors like in Cody because we cannot take it on right now with our current financial situation.”

Brooke Rogge then addressed the council, and said “there was more to do here when I was a kid. We don’t have a skating rink, no bowling alley, we have to drive to Pavillion or Lander for those activities. We also need a community pool, not just for the high school.” She also noted that two of her four children play hockey, and she suggested the city needs a new ice rink.

Councilor Jonathan Faubion suggested the women to and “talk to our neighbors in the community. The only way this will get done is if the community is willing to tax itself. You need to move the needle 11 percent and it’s a done deal,” he said.

At the conclusion of Tuesday night’s meeting, Council Member Lars Baker noted that the District 25 Recreation Board had just funded several projects for youth in the community, including USA Wrestling and Little League Baseball, among other activities.