Last Friday was the deadline for candidates to register for May’s Crown Mountain Park board of directors election, and in what comes as a bit of surprise, the race will be more hotly contested than usual this year.

The election was open to all voting-age citizens in the sprawling CMP taxing district, which stretches from Old Snowmass to Blue Lake and up the Frying Pan Valley to Ruedi Reservoir, and it drew eight candidates for the two available seats, including some heavy hitters on the local political scene.

In addition to incumbent Bonnie Scott, who has been on the board for four years and served as board president in 2019, the slate features former Basalt mayors Rick Stevens and Leroy Duroux, former Basalt town councilman Bernie Grauer, local business owner Denise Latousek, tennis coach Diana Elliott, architectural project manager Eric Aanonsen and Steven Loomis, about whom no information could be found online.

Two of the candidates also picked up the necessary forms to drop out of the race, which they would have to do by tomorrow, but neither had turned in the forms as of the morning of March 3, and one declared her intent to stay in the race late Tuesday evening. That means at least seven candidates will be vying for Scott’s seat and that of Robert Hubbell, a two-term board member who can’t run again due to term limits.

Part of the family who once owned the land that became CMP and still owns much of the land in El Jebel, Hubbell was instrumental in the founding of the park and served as a steady hand as it expanded over the years. Though he’ll no longer be serving in an official capacity, CMP Executive Director Rebecca Wagner expected Hubbell to keep being an integral part of the park.

“He’s always involved,” said Wagner. “Robert’s great. He’s always stopping by the office and checking in. He won’t be on our board, but he’ll still be involved in making sure the park is doing well. He just cares a lot about the park. His family cares a lot about it.”

Voters narrowly approved a property tax increase for Crown Mountain Park in 2018, and some local taxpayers weren’t very happy with the result. The presence of Stevens, Duroux and Grauer on the slate has led to speculation that their candidacies could have something to do with repealing or revising the tax hike, but Wagner didn’t seem to think that was the case.

“I think people just enjoy being part of the park district,” she said. “They see that we’re doing really cool things over here, and they want to be involved and be part of it. People are seeing how Crown Mountain Park is positively impacting the health and well-being of the community. They love the vitality and want to keep this a vital community asset. I think it’s great people are interested in what we’re doing. In the past we never had a ton of people running.”

Such heightened interest is a far cry from just four years ago, when Scott was elected to her first term.

“I thought I was doing everyone a favor by running back then,” joked Scott, a mother of two young boys who used to live in a neighborhood just across Valley Road from the park. “I don’t know what everyone’s interest is in this. Why are they all throwing their hats in the ring?”

Though she was surprised at the number of candidates, Scott said she was happy to see the community getting behind the park, even if it meant having to campaign a little harder this time around.

The election takes place one day only, May 5, from 7 a.m-7 p.m. at the Eagle County community building adjacent to CMP. Voters have to bring a valid ID and show up in person at the building in order to cast a vote, although absentee ballots can be requested from until April 28. Absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on May 5.

The winners will join sitting board members Jennifer Riffle, Kirk Schneider and current board President Tim Power-Smith at a time when CMP is primed for considerable growth and maintenance with 2019’s additional tax revenue in the coffers.

“It’s a big consulting year for the park,” said Wagner. “We’re looking at drainage. We’re looking at what kind of parking we need for the future. The bike park (please see related story, page 1) is a big piece of things. We’re going to be offering a variety of programs with AVSC this summer.”

The proposed projects come on the heels of a bathroom remodel that was done in 2019, and they’ll soon be accompanied by an upgrade to the park’s website that will include an easy way for park users to let CMP know how they feel about things.

“We’re going to be doing a huge public outreach to the community about what the people want to see,” said Wagner.

“This is the community’s park. What do they want to see? Do they want to see something with the pond? Do they want to see upgrades to the mile walking loop, more shade, more trees? So people will be able to click on an amenity and give their feedback.”

The enhanced website will be up and running this spring, and it will be a nice way to let your voice be heard. A better way, though, would be to remember to show up at the Eagle County building on May 5 and vote for your two preferred candidates. It’s a good bet there will be more to choose from than you probably would have expected.