City considers $10K purchase of social trail used by Steamboat Springs High School students
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city of Steamboat Springs is considering purchasing a small plot of land with a social trail on it between Locust Court and Fish Creek Falls Road.
Kids walking and biking to Steamboat Springs High School frequently use the trail, but it is on private property, meaning all of these users are technically trespassing. Kids use the trail to cut through Locust Court, across Fish Creek Falls Road, up Mauna Kea Lane and onto a connector trail before taking Lower Spring Creek Trail to the school.
“It’s not maintained,” Public Works Director Jon Snyder told Steamboat Springs City Council at the Tuesday, Dec. 18, meeting. “It’s simply been put there by people walking over the grass.”
Since the trail came to the city’s attention in September, city staff have been working to make the trail a legal crossing.
The property owner declined to grant an access easement over the property, citing liability concerns, Snyder said, but the owner was willing to sell the corner of the property, where the trail is located.
The city and property owner negotiated a sale price of $10,000 for the 5,000-square-foot section, Snyder said. At a September City Council meeting, council instructed city staff to attempt to negotiate a lower price, which the owner declined.
“That leaves us with three options,” Snyder said. “We either offer the $10,000, we try to pick up the land through some sort of taking via adverse possession or eminent domain, or we do nothing and allow the property owner to post it ‘no trespassing’ and not allow people to cross there.”
City Council asked staff to explore whether the neighborhood or community would help contribute to the purchase of the land.
Council member Lisel Petis said she felt $10,000 was a small price to pay for the safety of kids.
“I have no problem doing it, but I’d like to see this neighborhood, who desperately wants this, to come to the table with some sort of funding scenario that they can come up with some sort of funds,” Council Member Heather Sloop said.
Sloop said she didn’t know how many people would seek action on other social trails if this trail was purchased.
Staff also explored placing a crosswalk at the Fish Creek Falls Road crossing.
“In my professional opinion, it is significantly safer the way it is now unstriped and unsigned,” Snyder said. “Now that flies in the face of common convention because, usually, you put in signs, you put in stripes, you make a crosswalk safer. This is the exception.”
Snyder explained that a 4 percent grade for 150 feet before a crosswalk is recommended. Fish Creek Falls Road has a 7 to 8 percent grade at that spot.
“We don’t feel like, especially in the wintertime, a car is going to be able to successfully stop,” Snyder said.
Right now, kids are being cautious at the crossing, he said, but a crosswalk could create a false sense of security.
“My point is, we have mostly kids using this, and right now they have an abundance of caution,” Snyder said. “They look both ways. If we go in and put in signs, even blinky signs, they will push the button and think it’s safe to cross, and it may not be safe to do so.”
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