New chief named for Basin Recreation
As its first director, the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District has tapped a Midwest native with more than 30 years of experience managing government.
For 24 years, 61-year-old Ken Mickelsen was director of parks and recreation for the city of Ashland, Ore., a community similar to western Summit County.
With a population of roughly 20,000, he described Ashland as "one of the best places to live in, in the Northwest."
"It’s a tourist economy," he said, adding that more than 500,000 people usually visit Ashland in the summer. "And quality of life is a very important issue there, the same as here."
That attracted Mickelsen to the Snyderville Basin after stints as a recreation manager for cities in South Dakota and Washington.
"I was extremely impressed with the first-class recreation facilities in the Basin," he said.
Challenges to protect open space and build trails in Snyderville reflect those he’s tackled in other areas, Mickelsen explained.
"We are the people who are charged in many ways with the stewardship of the land," he said. "We’re a major player in the environmental movement today."
But voters must support bonds before land can be purchased to protect, Mickelsen said.
"In the last 10 to 15 years, the number one issue in parks and recreation is preservation of open space and development of trails," he said, adding that Ashland implemented an open-space program while he was there.
With voters set to decide Nov. 7 whether to support a $12 million bond for Basin Recreation, Mickelsen insists the money is needed for trails, park improvements and to construct a pool near Kimball Junction.
For people who live all year in Snyderville, the bond would increase the amount of annual property taxes they pay Basin Recreation to nearly $65 per $100,000 worth of property value.
"If you’re going to have those services, you have to realize that it’s going to cost money," Mickelsen said.
Mickelsen replaced Bonnie Park, the district’s former administrator as chief of Basin Recreation. The district will continue to employ Park as its special projects coordinator.
Park had overseen operations since bonds were approved for Basin Recreation in the 1990s.
"When we got started, there was nothing going on in trails and it was a real vision that came at just the right time when development pressure was so high," she said. "We never would have been able to acquire all the easements that we’ve acquired."
Basin Recreation’s willingness to cooperate with governmental agencies and the private sector lured him to western Summit County, Mickelsen said.
"The thing that really appealed to me is the tremendous concept of community that they have in the Park City area," he said. "The real spirit of cooperation here between entities avoids duplication and as a result, there is a savings of tax dollars."
Basin Recreation District board members conducted a nationwide search for a director after Park notified them last spring she would be stepping down as administrator.
"We had a number of local applicants apply, with 66 in total," Park said adding that the four finalists were interviewed in August. "We had a person from Steamboat, one from California, there was a Salt Lake person and Ken."
The district serves roughly 22,000 people and Mickelsen receives an annual salary of between $85,000 and $91,500 plus benefits, Park said.
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A Trailside resident, and Snyderville Basin Planning Commission member, launched a write-in campaign for the Park City Board of Education hoping to “get the trust of the community back.”