3 temporary easements pave the way for new trail connection from West Steamboat to Silver Spur

Tom Ross

— It won’t be fancy, and it’s only temporary, but the Routt County Commissioners have approved a plan by Road and Bridge Director Janet Hruby to construct a long-anticipated 1.5-mile pedestrian/bicycle path linking the western city limits with three nearby residential subdivisions in the county.

People living in Heritage Park, Steamboat II and Silver Spur who have avoided riding their bicycles along busy U.S. 40 could gain access by July 4 (possibly sooner) to a trailhead on Routt County Road 42 that would link to the western terminus of Gloria Gossard Parkway adjacent to the West Acres mobile home park. The project was made possible by the donation of temporary easements by three landowners, including Yampa Valley Electric Association, Steamboat 700 and Steamboat Victory.

“This trail takes a first step in recognizing the importance of a walk/bike route and will be in interim solution until the more complex core trail and U.S. 40 sidewalks are constructed,” Hruby said.

County commissioners late last month unanimously approved allowing the use of Road and Bridge heavy equipment and crew members to blade the 10-foot wide path, Hruby said. Landmark Consulting has agreed to donate time to survey the trail.

Commissioner Cari Hermacinski said Thursday that, although the trail isn’t permanent, she sees it as a positive development that could lead to more lasting changes.

“I know it’s temporary and the easements could be revoked,” she said. “But once you get something like this going, and the community starts enjoying it, it might inspire the landowners to enjoy it too. It’s not a lot of tax dollars, but I hope we’ll continue to make improvements (like culverts) to the trail to make it more usable.”

Hruby said the trail will be built along an existing two-track dirt road leading to Silver Spur. It will be a native soils trail — no gravel or additional surface materials will be applied to the skinned dirt, but it will be canted to encourage drainage. Still, if it rains, it will get muddy, Hruby said.

“It’s an interim solution,” she said. “Most development (that might take place on the three properties) would require a trail connection, so this is what we could do in the interim. All of the owners recognize that it’s a community need, and they wanted to be able to help with what we could do now.”

As recently as December 2011, a different Board of County Commissioners rebuffed an approach by City Councilman Walter Magill, who asked commissioners to consider setting aside funds to match future grants that would help fund trail connections west of the city.

Commissioner Doug Monger said at the time county government was so preoccupied with recovering from the recession and restoring employee pay cuts that resources for building trails just weren’t available.

Beginning on the west end at Routt County Road 42, where it curves sharply to the west around the edge of Silver Spur, the trail will traverse property owned by “Steamboat Victory,” then cross the Steamboat 700 property. It will reach its eastern terminus on land that Yampa Valley Electric Association purchased in 2012. That 70-acre parcel came with city approvals for a residential subdivision known as Overlook Park. Hruby said a proposal for a new development along the trail would spell its end.

Gossard Parkway is a dead-end street and carries no traffic, but has a completed sidewalk and links to Downhill Drive and then to Elk River Road/Routt County Road 129 leading to a pedestrian crossing at the stoplight on U.S. 40, with the Yampa River Core Trail a short distance further via Shield Drive. Trail users could also choose to link to the Core Trail near the city’s skate park from the western terminus of Downhill Drive, near Napa Auto Parts. However, that route lacks a signal controlled intersection.

Hruby has been working on a West Steamboat connection for more than five years, since before she came over to the county from her previous role as a city engineer. She explained that the culture of the county road and bridge department that she leads is all about building roads. But it’s plain she values making trail connections.

Ultimately there will be three trail connections in West Steamboat, Hruby said, including the core trail along the river, sidewalk along U.S. HIghway 40 and subdivision trail connections north of US 40.

“The community has a ways to go for pedestrian and bike trails to be part of our lifestyle,” she said. “We recognize its importance, but we haven’t gone to the next step to make it part of everything we do.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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