Alexis Barrere
Michael Edwards
Pam Eller
Ken Lucas
John Priddy
Elizabeth Watson

Vibrant Littleton posed three questions to each of the six candidates in the SSPRD Board Election and five responded. We appreciate the thoughtful responses we received from five of the candidates but were disappointed that the one incumbent candidate did not respond. Thank you to the five candidates for taking the time to share their thoughts with us!

QUESTION 1 — As stewards of almost 4000 acres, please tell us your thoughts about SSPR’s efforts regarding environmental sustainability.
Read candidate responses >

QUESTION 2 — A goal of SSPR’s is to reduce water consumption. What more should SSPR be doing to conserve water?
Read candidate responses >

QUESTION 3 — With bird and insect populations radically diminishing everywhere, what might SSPR do to enhance their numbers in our part of the world?
Read candidate responses >


As stewards of almost 4000 acres, please tell us your thoughts about SSPR’s efforts regarding environmental sustainability.

Alexis BarrereALEXIS BARRERE: The SSPRD 2023 Master Plan Draft references the word sustainability a few times, including a reference to a sustainability committee and a sustainability plan. Unfortunately, there is not much more information on either item in the plan or on the SSPRD website. I have looked into the SSPRD sustainability committee and what I have discovered is that the committee just re-established in January 2023 after taking a break during the pandemic and it is focused on improving the organization’s stewardship of community resources. It is an non-public internal advisory committee that makes recommendations to the SSPRD management team, the committee does not directly interface with the board of directors. Given these information, I believe that SSPRD and it’s board needs to make sustainability a larger priority given the state of climate change. It is possible SSPRD is doing a large amount of sustainability work but unfortunately that is not something that is common knowledge and I believe sustainability work should be front and center on the SSPRD website and posted in the rec centers so residents understand the work that is being done.

Michael EdwardsMICHAEL EDWARDS: As someone who first benefited from SSPR’s assets in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I appreciate SSPR’s definition of sustainability: using resources in a responsible manner to preserve opportunities for the next generation.

To me, sustainability is an evolving process incorporating new technologies and new practices. SSPRD as a member of the National Recreation and Park Association, as well as one of the elite Park and Recreation Districts in the country to have received the CAPRA Accreditation, can work with other CAPRA Accredited entities across the country to share the newest technologies and best practices on sustainability.

I also believe that fiscal responsibility is fundamental for an organization to sustain itself AND all of the land and assets that it owns and/or manages.

Pam EllerPAM ELLER: Stewardship of the environment is one of the responsibilities of SSPRD listed in the District’s Mission Statement.  The District has pursued several projects which promote environmental sustainability and preserve natural resources.

Almost all District parks are now watered through a central control system which conserves water and limits travel time for staff who monitor the sprinkler systems.  All recreation facilities are on a central system which controls lighting, heating and cooling systems.  Most lights throughout the District have been converted to LED and are controlled by automatic on-off sensors.

In addition, SSPRD now participates in two solar arrays.  The power produced by these arrays completely offsets electric usage at three recreation centers—Buck Community, Goodson and Lone Tree.

The parks, trails and open spaces maintenance crews work in teams and travel in specific routes around the District to minimize fuel usage.

Clearly the District’s management and staff are dedicated to conserving resources and maintaining the environmental integrity of all District properties.  It is the responsibility of the Board of Directors to encourage these programs and empower all employees to seek innovative methods in management that promotes sustainability.

John PriddyJOHN PRIDDY: To promote environmental sustainability, I start by acknowledging that climate change is real! I make that statement because according to NASA, 97% of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change.  Having said that, the District in its 2017 Master Plan very clearly articulated a Guiding Principle to “Lead Sustainability”.  I also know that SSPRD in its yet-to-be adopted 2022 Master Plan lays out a Sustainability Plan and Natural Resource Management Plan. The District, as I understand it, will also reinstate an Internal Sustainability Committee this year following a hiatus resulting from the pandemic.

In short, my intent as a BOD member will be to evaluate how the commitments we made in the 2017 Master Plan as it relates to Sustainability were met or not met.  Furthermore, how do we intend to meet the moment with our 2022 Master Plan as we all tackle climate change and environmental sustainability.

Elizabeth WatsonELIZABETH WATSON: I am concerned that SSPR’s efforts regarding environmental sustainability are a secondary consideration for the organization, at best. SSPR’s sustainability information on its website ( ) has not been updated since 2018. SSPR’s Sustainability Committee does not include any members of the public and does not provide updates or reports to the community. In a search of the SSPR 2023 Budget, SSPR does not show a full or part-time sustainability employee. This is definitely an area that SSPR should actively focus on improving. If “Lead Sustainability” is going to remain one of SSPR’s four guiding principles there should be an active Sustainability Committee involving and providing information to the community, sustainability requirements for renovations and new construction, and updated information shared with the community on SSPR’s recent sustainability accomplishments and any upcoming initiatives.


A goal of SSPR’s is to reduce water consumption. What more should SSPR be doing to conserve water?

Alexis BarrereALEXIS BARRERE: It is unclear to me exactly what SSPRD is doing to help protect the vital resource of water in our community. From what I understand, SSPRD is the largest landowner in South Metro Denver and yet they do not have an MS4 permit, which outlines a plan for how an agency manages/separates storm runoff. Agencies like Littleton Public Schools, Coors Field, and Arapahoe Community College have MS4 permits and it would make sense for SSPRD to have MS4 permit to make sure SSPRD incorporates into it’s policies all the strategies other MS4 permit holders use to protect water quality. If elected, I would like to explore how SSPRD can establish a MS4 permit and better understand how other water conservation efforts such as using gray water to water SSPRD parks and golf courses can be put into motion. I am the sister of two water resource engineers, so I understand water as a vital resource that we in Colorado need to be addressing NOW.

Michael EdwardsMICHAEL EDWARDS: First, I see this as an ongoing process that needs to continue to evolve as new technologies and practices become available.  SSPR should be following the Best Practices of other Parks & Recreation Districts, specifically CAPRA Accredited entities throughout the region and across the country, on how they optimize water use and retention.

The artificial turf fields at the Sports Complex – both indoor and outdoor – are a great example of a technological advance that eliminates the need for watering grass, as well as other routine maintenance like mowing, fertilizing and weed control.

In parks that still have grass fields, SSPRD currently uses real-time date from centralized watering systems that measures natural precipitation, heat and humidity and alerting Park personnel if more, or less water, is needed. Watering with non-potable sources should also be evaluated.

Pam EllerPAM ELLER: Water use in District parks can be controlled by a central system as mentioned above. This not only controls the amount of water delivered, but also alerts staff if there is a leak or malfunction in a system, allowing for quick response to minimize water loss.

Mowing patterns also can limit water use. Leaving the grass longer in areas where it wouldn’t interfere with use of athletic fields could lower the water requirements.

The use of artificial turf on certain playing fields is an excellent way to conserve water.  The District has implemented several different projects utilizing artificial turf and this practice should be encouraged.

Use of low flow water fixtures wherever possible in District recreation centers and sports facilities, as well as golf course clubhouses and the Lone Tree Hotel can make a significant difference in water use.

John PriddyJOHN PRIDDY: In my experience, the first step to improve any process is to understand the current state.  I believe the District is keenly aware of its commitment to work to improve its water use across the programs and activities it supports.  What is key in doing more to conserve water would be an overarching Water Management Plan, and any actionable steps the District has articulated in its 2022 Master Plan.  As a Board Member, I intend to review the water use priorities and our intent to hold ourselves accountable for the discrete work plans and steps to be good stewards of our critical water resource.

Elizabeth WatsonELIZABETH WATSON: I believe the first step in meeting a goal like this is a clear understanding of where you are starting. I could not find any information on SSPR’s current water consumption rate. SSPR should establish what their water consumption is and then measure the impact of any conservation efforts. Two areas that I think would be key to lowering water consumption would be monitoring and maintenance programs at SSPR’s four golf courses and including water conservation as a key element to ongoing renovations and maintenance projects at SSPR’s numerous parks as well as their recreational facilities.


With bird and insect populations radically diminishing everywhere, what might SSPR do to enhance their numbers in our part of the world?

Alexis BarrereALEXIS BARRERE: SSPRD needs to make sure there is a balance of natural open spaces along with recreation parks and playgrounds. To promote bird and insert populations, SSPRD needs to allow open spaces to safely remain as undisturbed as possible so ecosystems can flourish and work to create more parks like South Platte Park where resident adventure and wildlife populations are both fostered. SSPRD can also prioritize investing in drought tolerant and bird/bee friendly plants for park walkways and gardens and educate our residents on the topic through classes to learn about ways to plant and make their yards more bee/bird friendly.

Michael EdwardsMICHAEL EDWARDS: As a wildlife photographer, I look for, and appreciate, habitats that will attract birds and insects.

While SSPR’s 3,800 acres is a sizable number, it is small in comparison to district partners – the combined municipalities have about 30,000 acres and Arapahoe, Jefferson and Douglas Counties have 1.4 million acres – so, what is important for SSPR, is to collaborate with these municipalities and Counties to leverage the knowledge and resources to enhance or create habitats – even if it is just a an acre, here and there – that can both reduce water needs, maintenance labor and that will attract and support insects and bird populations.

Educating district residents about the issue of declining bird and insect populations is something that SSPRD has already taken a proactive and leading role with its various guided hikes with naturalists, nature programs and camps for kids. The education program is a key part of what the Carson Nature Center and South Platte Park staff focus on.

Pam EllerPAM ELLER: There are many opportunities for an organization such as South Suburban to enhance bird and insect populations. The planting of specific species of trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers that attract insects and birds should always be a consideration. The District maintains a horticulture department and follows best practices for utilizing native species and controlling invasive species of plants.

Carson Nature Center and Hudson Gardens are unique facilities for a parks and recreation district.  In addition to studying and monitoring the effects of various practices on the populations of insects and birds, staff offers many educational opportunities for the public to learn best practices for their own properties.

Finally, limiting the use of pesticides is an important factor in maintaining an environment that is healthy for birds and insects (and humans)!

John PriddyJOHN PRIDDY: I agree that the District must do its part to enhance bird and insect populations over the 4,000 acres that it stewards.  Recognizing that biodiversity to include habitat, food, water sources and pesticides use are all factors that impact bird and insect populations, I will look for bird and insect-friendly projects in the 2022 Master Plan.  Another factor is how SSPRD, and its professional staff show up across the south metro region and influence governmental groups, agencies, and other groups to effect practices and policies and other changes that aid in arresting the decline in bird and insect populations.  As a Board member I intend to ask that those factors be considered in the programming and resource choices we make.

Elizabeth WatsonELIZABETH WATSON: As of January 1, 2023 SSPR now owns and operates Hudson Gardens. Combined with South Platte Park, the City of Littleton is truly the heart of SSPR’s natural open spaces. These two amazing amenities provide numerous opportunities to enhance bird and insect populations. In addition to the ability to preserve and maintain bird and insect habitat, the educational and programming options at South Platte Park and Hudson Gardens can, and should, contribute to education regarding the importance of bird and insect populations. In addition, SSPR should consider insect-friendly plantings at all of their parks and facilities and, when possible, include habitat for birds as well as insects in their projects and renovations.

SSPRD Board Election voting takes place on May 2, 2023 at Goodson Recreation Center, 6315 S. University Blvd, Centennial CO. Or you may request an absentee ballot (mail ballot) in writing by April 25. Or simply download the Absentee Ballot application here >

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