Fairplay Public Library
May 27, 2010

James B. Gardner Memorial Library and Park County Offices

Predominantly rural Park County is 2,166 square miles in area, at an average altitude of 9,000 feet, and a population of 18,000.  Once a vital mining area, the county’s current economy depends on ranching and tourism.  The county has only two incorporated towns, centrally located Fairplay (population 700) and Alma (population 230).  Most of the population is concentrated in the northeastern part of the county, 50 miles from the urban center of Denver.  The rest of the county, sometimes referred to as South Park, is rural and underserved in many ways.  Many who choose to live in Park County must work outside of the county because of the lack of employment opportunities.  This large county has two medical clinics and one physician, all located in Fairplay.  There is no hospital in Park County.  Higher education opportunities are very limited within Park County.  Red Rocks Community College has just begun to offer one or two classes per semester in our local high school.  There is no local venue for theater or music. 

The James B. Gardner Memorial Library and Park County Offices will address many of these deficiencies by providing services to numerous permanent and part-time residents, visitors and vacationers.  The building will house the Fairplay Library, one of four libraries operated by the county, and in addition the Department of Human Services, the Department of Public Health, the Park County Local History Archives, and the Senior Coalition.  The building will also provide meeting and exhibition space for community activities; the library and county offices will provide critical educational services. 

The Project

The new building will be located behind the current Fairplay Library, which is housed in the 1874 county courthouse.  An outstanding feature of the new building is its atrium connection to the old county courthouse which finally provides ADA access to all levels of this historic building.  The connection will be made of glass to enhance the visual impact of this lovely, historical Italianate structure. 

The total square footage for the building will be 16,235 square feet; 5,053 for the library, 6,681 for the offices, and 2,779 for the connecting passage and atrium.  With the collaboration of service departments, the new building will offer the county coordinated and innovative services in health, environmental conservation, arts and culture, community development, education, and human services. 

With the addition of Human Services, Public Health, Local History Archives and Senior Coalition as partners in this building project, the library can magnify its impact on the Fairplay, South Park, and Park County communities.  It can serve as a model for the kind of cooperation that transcends sector and financial stature to look only at the positive impact on its neighbors.

Much work and research has gone into the design of the new building to ensure that the old courthouse is preserved according to the U. S. Department of Interior standards, and with the approval of the State Historic Fund, the Park County Historical Preservation Committee, and the town of Fairplay Historic Overlay Committee.

We feel strongly that the collaboration of services and programs within this new structure and the symbiotic relationship that is forming will aid our community more than the heretofore separate entities.

The McNamara Building Factor

Last fall, Fire Chief Mike Roll described the McNamara Building, an old office building in Fairplay, as a “death trap.”  The Senior Coalition, the Park County Local History Archives, and two county offices, Human Services and Public Health, had to move.

The offices evicted from the McNamara building are now housed in inadequate spaces around the county.  Human Services is in an office building with limited space and compromised privacy for their clients.  Public Health is in an old store front with a variety of steps, limited space, and only the minimal provisions for privacy and safety.  The Senior Coalition is located in the Fairbarn, an old Quonset hut, and in a spare office at the sheriff’s office.  The non-profit Park County Local History Archives has been moved to a small meeting room at the Bailey Library, 40 miles from Fairplay, the county seat and location of recent county records.  The county records housed at the Clerk and Recorder’s office are vital to volunteer archivists’ scholarly and legal research now lodged in Bailey Library, an extremely inconvenient arrangement.

The Old Courthouse Building Factor

The current library is housed in the old county courthouse, built in 1874.  The deficiencies in this building are numerous.  The building is not handicapped accessible because of steep stairs to two floors and limited restroom space.  Wiring is old and dangerous, inadequate for modern technological equipment.  Space is limited for both children’s and adult’s programming, collections, and computer workstations.  The configuration of the library level creates supervision and safety problems for the librarian.  Even more important, this configuration creates a fire hazard since a fire in the foyer would block all egress from that floor except through windows about fifteen feet above ground.  The old courthouse averages $1200 a month to heat during the winter.

With the new library and county offices being built behind this venerable old county courthouse, these deficiencies will be mitigated while preserving the usefulness of the building.  Energy-efficient heat and electricity generated in the new building will also be used in the old courthouse.  Accessibility to all floors in the old county courthouse will be provided through the glass connection and the elevator in the new building.  The interior of the old county courthouse will eventually be restored to an 1890’s period.  The space will be used as a living museum of the district courtroom, and a meeting room.  The addition of doorways from the glass atrium to the old building will provide the egress necessary for fire safety of the occupants in the old courthouse.


The Park County Offices and James B. Gardner Memorial Library project includes the offices for Park County Public Health.  Currently the Park County Public Health department is part of the displaced offices of the McNamara Building.

The new building will provide secure offices for storage of files, especially those requiring HIPA compliance.  Private offices for both STEPP and WIC and an examination/immunization room will be provided.  Space is dedicated for emergency preparedness and response with access for exterior vehicle loading.

The health services that are provided for the community include the following:  Immunizations, Tobacco Cessation Program and Education, Health Care Program for Children with Special Needs, CHP+, Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment, Nutrition Education/WIC program, Pregnancy Testing, Breastfeeding Education, Nurse-Family Partnership for first time parents, Seasonal Flu Shots, Communicable Disease Control and Investigation, and Emergency Preparedness Response.

All of these services are vital to the Fairplay community and to all of Park County.  The current building crisis has made the provision of services inadequate.  Resources and files are placed helter-skelter at this point and the services are not located in a wholesome or healthy environment.  The Public Health education focus in the new offices will be an increased awareness and understanding of good environmental and health practices.  The Public Health Department is a resource for everyone but only if it is in an accessible and safe location.

The Park County Public Health Department and the library are already planning coordinated outreach programs, including story/instructional programs for children on nutrition, a healthy environment, and exercise. In addition the new building will provide an example to the citizens of Park County as to the health and economic advantages of environmentally desirable practices for building in Park County.  The heating system will be use plinth flooring to accommodate wiring and heating ducts.  The electricity will be provided by photovoltaic panels, enough to provide a net zero usage.  The old county courthouse will be connected to the new building physically in a very visible manner via a glass atrium.  The old courthouse will also be connected to the new heating system and to the electricity derived from the photovoltaic panels.  The lightning of the new building, especially in the library area, has been designed to use as much natural light as possible.  Clerestory windows and shed roofs will bounce direct sunlight onto the ceiling of the library and then down.  Ventilation will be such that air conditioning may not be necessary.  The connection between the old and new buildings and the systems used in the new building will greatly reduce the environmental impact of these two structures.

Arts and Heritage

This community values its cultural heritage and therefore one of the most exciting parts of the new library project is how it will enhance and support the renovation/restoration of the 1874 courthouse where the library is currently housed.  This old courthouse currently houses our library, the County Coroner, Park County Historic Preservation, and the oldest, continually functioning courtroom in Colorado.  That courtroom will eventually be restored to its former grandeur with an eighteen-foot ceiling, decorative molding, and plaster walls.  

In the past the library has supported the arts through book talks by Colorado writers; art, music, dance, and crafts experiences for children; and recently an art fundraiser which involved a significant cross section of the entire community with school children, teens, adult citizens, artists, and even prison inmates participating in the project.  The new building will provide space for the non-profit Park County Local History Archives.  The proposed new Archives facility will be climate controlled with separate rooms for patrons, staff and storage.  It will offer a safe storage and maintenance location for photographs, manuscripts, maps, public records, letters, and oral histories to preserve the heritage and culture of this precious western history.

The new facility will have exhibition spaces for hanging special collections and performance space for local and professional presentations.  This space will be available for the use of organizations and arts or civic groups.  Library personnel are already working with art and music teachers from the local schools.  The teachers of these groups are excited to have these spaces available to them and their students thereby providing a community outlet for multiple talents.

Community Development

This construction project will have an impact on the larger community, not just the town of Fairplay.  As the county seat, Fairplay is the center of the county’s business and as such has a great number of county residents coming to conduct county business.  Fairplay is also home to the 11th Judicial District court.  People come to Fairplay for a variety of reasons and when they are in Fairplay they often need the services of the library.  For example, the courts cannot provide legal forms.  However, many forms are on the judicial system website.  The court clerks often send people to the library to use the computers and the internet to obtain the necessary forms and information.  Clients for Human Services, Senior Coalition, and Public Health will undoubtedly find the proximity of the library a benefit and an incentive to use the library services.  In the accepting and welcoming environment of the library, residents of Park County using the noted county services will have easy access to the services of the library, including the print materials, computers, internet, and job resource facilities.  Library services will take the burden off of Human Services to provide access to the internet and computers for those who do not have these resources at home.

This building will also have a community room equipped with the latest technology and wiring for computers and other equipment.  The plan is to encourage use of this room by community groups but also through collaboration of the building entities to provide a variety of classes and training.  The intent is to create a community destination that will provide education, encouragement, enlightenment, and entertainment important to all.


The library’s mission statement is to “educate, encourage, enlighten, and entertain.”  The library staff and the Library Board of Trustees perceive their business to be that of providing equal and enhanced educational opportunities to all of Park County’s citizens.  They see themselves as educators.  The library supports self-directed education (books and E-resources); research assistance and instruction to both individuals and groups; and instructive and enlightening experiences as a community and cultural center.  This project demonstrates a synergistic collaboration of previously unrelated, widely dispersed entities.  Combining county offices for Public Health, Human Services, the Senior Coalition, and Park County Local History Archives with the new library, these partners will have the community meeting rooms available for educational and business purposes.  Archives will use the exhibition hall for special exhibitions showing Park County’s contributions to and participation in Colorado and United States history.  Seminars and colloquia will be possible for the Senior Coalition, Public Health, and Human Services.  The Senior Coalition will undoubtedly use some of these spaces for educational and social occasions.  The Community Room will be equipped with state of the art communication and projection equipment.  The spaces currently available in Fairplay for large community meetings include the Fairbarn (a Quonset hut), the American Legion (a 25” X 60” prefab at least 55 years old), and the high school “cafetorium” or gymnasium.  The community needs the well-equipped, comfortable meeting rooms this project will provide.

Already a beehive of activity, the current library, limited to a cozy 975 square feet, houses a large and vibrant book collection as well as public access computers, videos, CD’s, and DVD’s.  Currently the two public-use computers are limited to thirty minute sessions and they are in use almost constantly.  The recent establishment of a Wi-Fi connection expanded electronic services to the public.  The new library will provide eight computers and continue the Wi-Fi.  A Job Resource Center with a dedicated computer for job searches, applications, and training will be installed in the new library.  The library will offer patrons access to the internet, research databases, expanded collections with music added to the list, and space for lectures, exhibitions, and public meetings.  The new library will provide dedicated spaces appropriately designed and furnished for children and teens.  Current services to these groups include free movies, storytelling hours, and reading programs.  Those programs will be continued and expanded. 

The benefit of this new structure to the town, the people, and the library is almost unimaginable.  The library and offices, located in the town center will become a center of community activity and an economic stimulus for the town.

Human Services

The Park County Human Services department will be located in the office portion of the new library/office building.  Human Services is one of those departments evicted from the McNamara Building.  Even before that time Human Services were in dire need of safe, secure facilities for their clients and the staff.  Now the need has become even greater.  Security for clients and staff is not provided in the current offices.  Federal regulations for private offices for all staff are being met only minimally. 

The Human Services department clients are often in crisis.  These people have exhausted their personal resources and need government assistance.  Human Services manages the following programs:  LEAP (Low income Energy Assistance Program), Food Stamps, Food Assistance, Home Care for Adults, Child Care Assistance, Child Welfare, CORE (Mental Health and Family Therapy), TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families), and OAP (Old Age Pension). 

All of these programs will be provided in the new offices and in this new environment there will be security for the staff and clients as well as the privacy deserved by all.  Clients will have the opportunity to collaborate with the other offices in the building and with the library.  Already the legal aid service, formerly provided through the Human Services department, was discontinued because of the lack of space in the current location.  The Fairplay Library has stepped in to provide the office for that service during hours when the library is otherwise closed.  Although not an ideal solution because of the ADA issues with the old library building, the legal aid service continues to be provided for Park County residents.  In addition, the Colorado Workforce meets with Park County residents here in the Fairplay Library once a month.  This service also used to be provided through Human Services but the facilities were no longer available so the Workforce service has been moved to the library.

The mission of the Human Services department is to help those in need and to provide them with the essentials for subsistence.  The new building will meet the needs of our poorest citizens in a safe, secure environment, providing these services with the dignity citizens deserve.

The non-profit Park County Senior Coalition offices will be located in the new building.  Their mission is to help seniors maintain the highest quality of life by remaining in their homes as long as possible.  They give emergency phone monitors, utility assistance, home repair, homemaker services, and food assistance.  With no assisted living housing in Park County, Human Services may provide ways for seniors to stay in their homes rather than leaving Park County.

The Funding

The Friends of the Fairplay Library as a 501 (c)3 non-profit will raise the funds for the library portion of the new building through local fundraising and grant writing.  The partnership with Park County Human Services, Park County Public Health, the Senior Coalition, and the Park County Local History Archives will provide the additional funding.  Each partner will bring funds to the table to build this shared facility. 

In the planning and design stage, Park County obtained a grant from the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) for half of the funds necessary for this stage.  Other monies came from the Friends of the Fairplay Library, the Governor’s Energy Office and Park County government.

The support of DOLA for the design phase will continue into the construction phase.  We are working closely with this government entity to insure their support of the completion of this project.  The Boettcher Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and Coors have all agreed to support our project. 

The architect for the project, Arch 11, Inc., is also involved in the fundraising by providing us with the necessary tools, i.e. plans, designs, scale model, for this effort.

Project leaders anticipate that all of the money will be obtained by late spring of 2011 at which time construction begins.


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