By Diane Metzger

The Town of Erie, just east of Boulder, boasts a wealth of recreation opportunities. With 14 parks and over 1,400 acres of open space, the Town works hard to meet the recreational needs of its rapidly growing 35,000 residents and counting. The Town has grown its population by 6% annually since 2018, driving the need for more park space. 

Thanks to innovative thinking and collaboration, the recently completed Erie Community Park stands out as a shining example of what's possible. 

The park sits on a 12-acre lot adjacent to the Erie Community Library, the Erie Community Center, and the Erie Medical Center. It contains an array of amenities including walking trails, basketball courts, a fitness shelter, a turf workout area, a sledding hill with the ability to make snow, an asphalt pump track, and two electric vehicle charging stations. It also features environmentally conscious elements like 96,000 square feet of sod that requires little water, environmental education signage at gathering areas, and an environmental awareness-themed playground. 

Aerial view of Erie Community Park.
By Bergreen Photography

A key figure in the park’s creation was Luke Bolinger, the development and neighborhood services division manager under Erie’s parks and recreation department. Day-to-day, he collaborates with the town’s development partners to create and maintain parks, trails, and open space that best serve the community. “As project manager, you learn something from every project,” he said. “What works, what doesn’t, how to approach design challenges…these sorts of things.”

Girl climbs on rope structure.
By Bergreen Photography.

Creating a quality park is not solely a top-down effort; it requires broad-based participation to be successful. 

“I think our project really highlights the importance of collaboration with our residents and partners not just during the design phase, but throughout the project." In the case of Erie Community Park, the town engaged diverse stakeholders, including youth, residents, and town council members. Engagement took many forms, including visiting schools, attending farmers' markets, and hosting open houses at the Erie Community Center. These efforts not only informed park features, but also fostered community support for the project.

In addition, a great park also requires great builders. At Erie Community Park, ECI Site Construction Management was the primary contractor. “I have gained so much respect for people who work in trades – masons, welders, pipe layers, concrete finishers, irrigation installers,” reflected Luke. “The Erie Community Park project involved all these trades, and sometimes you just must sit back and marvel at the skill. It really changes your perspective on the next project as you are looking at designs on paper and before the first shovel hits the dirt.”

Three youth play in playground structure.
By Bergreen Photography

The project inspired the Town to think differently about the possibilities for outdoor spaces. 

For example, it’s possible for seemingly opposing needs to be met at the same time. There’s a hill at the park that serves as a peaceful reflection point, but then a bustling sledding hill when snow hits the ground. There are quiet reading rooms that also transform into vibrant outdoor classrooms. You can achieve “a balance between conservation and recreational activities” and “[adapt] to…evolving societal needs and preferences.” Over time, Luke says, “the community has realized that not all parks have to look and feel the same. However, he urges that it’s important to “set realistic expectations. Not every project is Leslie Knope-esque. Your project matters–no matter how big or small.”

Young person rides a bike on the pump track.
By Bergreen Photography

And when a project finally crosses the finish line, it feels pretty sweet. 

“On the day of the grand opening, I was so nervous that I spent the whole day at the park just doing busy work getting everything set up and just cleaning,” said Luke. “[When it was time,] I got a little choked up because I realized that I had spent months on this project, going there almost every day, hot, cold, snowy, windy; it didn’t matter. If I needed to be at the site, I was there. That day we were finally able to deliver this park to the community and I tell you, it was the best feeling. Seeing the kids just mob the pump track was another ‘wow’ moment, especially after having to tell them so many times: ‘it’s not open yet – soon!’”

Now, residents are enjoying this new and epic place to play. In fact, Erie Community Park sees an average of 82,000 plus visits a year. “I’m fairly certain when it’s time to replace the pump track, it will be because of this young mountain biker who probably accounts for 90% of the visits we see at [the park],” says Luke. According to 13-year-old Brady Baer, “The Erie pump track is a great place all around. It’s a good place to begin and a good place for people who are not beginning to have fun there. In fact, the Erie pump track is where I built confidence to try mountain biking."

Parent holds child up to shoot a basketball into the hoop.
By Bergreen Photography

Here's to creating a park that can deliver a lasting, positive impact on those who visit. 

“I envision [people] reminiscing with their families about the pump track, sledding hill, or the giant rope climber that offers that breathtaking view of Longs Peak. I hope our communities view all our parks, trails, and open spaces as places to disconnect from the stresses of life, whether through sports, socialization, or simply enjoying solitude.”

Great work, Luke, the team at the Town of Erie, and the many other partners and community members who made this park possible! You inspire us. 

The project was supported by funding from GOCO, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Energy Impact Assistance Fund, the Regional Air Quality Council, and the Town of Erie. 

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