The BV Community Center was packed for the Billy Cordova Memorial Park community input meeting Thursday, Jan. 26.

Buena Vista residents talked features, budget and accessibility for the new park in the Sunset Vista neighborhood.

“If you’ve been in town for a while you know that we’ve been dreaming of a park on the west side of town,” said BV Recreation special projects manager Earl Richmond. “It’s one of our fastest growing areas in Buena Vista, and it’s also in one of our largest recreational play-feature park black holes, so not a lot of public recreational opportunities out on the west side.”

Though the potential park was originally called Sunset Vista, the community decided to shift gears to create a tribute to BV’s first responders, notably former Battalion Chief Billy Cordova and his family.

The park’s grant funding had been delayed previously as the town missed GOCO awards. Now, the town is preparing for another round of grant applications.

They’ll be working with a Salida-based landscape architect Valerian to get the ball rolling on site plans.

“This has never been off of our radar,” Richmond said. This is a very important piece of our recreational puzzle, so we want to get it going. We brought it back to the top of the list, and it’s one of our focal points in 2023.”

Playground features

The playscape will include a two-level structure with a slide, climbing tube and fireman’s pole. Playground classics like monkey bars and swings will be included as well as a rideable fire truck on springs, in line with the park’s first responder theme.

While the entire park will be universally accessible, the playground will have a number of inclusive features including a circle spinner, a smaller play structure with a smaller slide and additional rideable features. The swingset will have an accessible swing with a harness and a group swing to accommodate multiple users. The last piece of the play area is the sensory zone.

“It’s kind of like a sandbox on steroids,” said BV Rec supervisor Shane Basford. “Particularly for children with autism, sensory areas to feel different textures is something they often connect with.”

Though not depicted in the sketches of the park, the play area base will be around 50% engineered wood fiber and 50% poured-in-place rubberized surface. The playground will also have a 4-foot vinyl-coated fence with gates.

“There are some neat … collaborative play things that are good options for kids with disabilities and neurotypical kids,” said participant Abbie Koenig, owner of Colorado Autism Consultants. “Most of the things that I came pre-thinking about are in here. I was thinking about fenced-in playgrounds that I really liked, and the nature area is pretty cool.”

Universal accessibility

Universal accessibility has played a big role in how the department has approached the park’s features.

“We’re really committed to making this the most universally accessible park and area in our valley,” said special events coordinator Leslie Quilico. “We really want this to be a place where children and adults of all abilities can play shoulder to shoulder.”

The park will have concrete paths throughout and accessible parking spaces. In addition to an accessible swing, it has features for kids of all abilities and a wheelchair-accessible rubber surface.

“There’s a true difference between something being ADA-compliant and like actually accessible for neurodivergent children and adults and for children and adults with physical disabilities, as well,” she said. “We have gone above and beyond here because we really want this to be an accessible park.”

The sensory zone will include a variety of textures, which haven’t been specified yet. Quilico said they’ve considered a wall with a variety of textured surfaces. She also pointed out the features of the adult fitness area, which will be for folks 13 and older.

“There will be some specifically tailored equipment to assist in like fitness while aging, so that’s an important part, too,” she said, touching on the park’s commitment to accessibility.

“There have been some things that have shifted in the park vision over the years but this piece has not,” Quilico said. “The dream from the beginning, written in the first grant application that I read, is that we want a park where children of all abilities can play shoulder to shoulder. That’s the goal.”

Koenig said she would love to see group-coordinated play features for neurotypical and neurodivergent kids to use together, particularly as kids grow up.

“I would like a way out,” said 3-year-old park user Graham Turk. “A way out and a way in.”

Both Quilico and Koenig said they were excited about the gated fence, as well, to ensure kids don’t run off into the street. Parent Laura Turk was glad to see some seating inside the playground.

Trails connect trails

Jason Maher of the BV Singletrack Coalition detailed the park’s trail, which will connect to the Peaks View Trail.

“The existing one goes up to Rodeo Drive and then stops there,” Maher said, “and then the easement, going through the neighborhoods and getting to Cordova Park. Obviously, it’ll cross Larissa Lane.”

“Currently, this is basically between some houses and it’s kind of an alleyway that goes through there,” said Ryan Cole of the Trails Advisory Board. “So it’s going to be a 1,700-foot area that’s going to be converted into a trail, basically an extension of that Peaks View Trail, so the same sort of crushed limestone-type trail. The Peaks View Trail that currently exists is going to be rehabbed, as well.”

Maher said that while the trail won’t be totally ADA-accessible, they want to get it closer to that goal.

The park and trail will also be accessible via South Pleasant Avenue for bicyclists, and the long-term plan will extend the trail all the way to the Rodeo Grounds, which will later include a sports complex, a drone area and an additional trail system.

Putting the memories into a memorial park

Danielle Ryan, who serves on the BV Rec Advisory Board, introduced concepts for the memorial feature of the park.

The plan includes a stone labyrinth honoring Colorado and local first responders, with a memorial to Cordova at the center.

“We want something that honors Billy and the different sides of who he was, and then also first responders,” Ryan said. “I was thinking Chaffee Fire, police, EMS, search and rescue, and someone mentioned (Cordova’s) work with Parks and Wildlife.”

The labyrinth would ideally be wide enough to accommodate strollers or wheelchairs, with low compacted dirt or rock walls. There has also been a suggestion to enclose the labyrinth with a skylight over the center.

They plan to make the memorial durable and maintenance-free, as there is no ongoing budget to maintain it.

Ryan and Koenig also considered what the labyrinth would look like if they included some sensory features along the walls of the path, including silhouette cutouts.

“It’s about fun,” Ryan said, “and I think Billy could appreciate that.”

Additional features key on sustainability

Along with the playground and memorial, the park will have a bring-your-own-game area, fenced-in dog run, grass field, basketball and blacktop court, nature play zone and restrooms.

Lance Sawyer said they are looking to put in low-water grass, which will require less maintenance than other park grasses and will also stay cooler and last longer than turf.

“This was on the recommendation of Shawn (Williams) from Public Works,” he said. “If artificial turf was put in, we would probably want to have that entire area fenced off to keep dogs off of it. Because cleaning up after dogs on artificial turf is a lot harder unless you’ve got a pressure washer.”

Third-grader Campbell Koenig was most excited about the basketball court and asked about the potential for a zipline feature.

“It’s a half-court for basketball, and then it’s got the lines on there for doing things like foursquare and some other games,” Sawyer said.

And there’s the budget

Richmond covered the budget, which has changed since the original park plans were put in motion.

“In 2019, a similar plan to this had a total cost, so for every part of design engineering, trails, irrigation, the total cost was $475,000,” Richmond said. “We’ve improved the plan and made it a lot cooler, and also the cost of construction has gone in. Where do you think we are today with the cost?”

After attendees threw out a few guesses, all in the $500,000 to $700,000 range, Richmond explained the up-to-date cost comes to around $1 million.

The department is pursuing grants through GOCO, as well as donations and contributions from other local groups.

Richmond also emphasized the local nature of the project, including local engineers and landscape architecture resources.

“It’s a big number, but it includes everything,” he said. “We can also help try to whittle that down through other grants and donations and fundraising, but it’s a realistic number that we have to face. … GOCO is going to be our biggest funding source. Of the $1 million, we’re going to ask GOCO for $750,000.”

In closing, Richmond, Basford and Quilico thanked attendees for coming and encouraged interested parties to get involved with future park planning meetings.

The next meeting for the Billy Cordova Memorial Park will be Thursday, Feb. 2. Additional details about the park and BV Rec meetings can be found at

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