City secures permanent public river access near Iron Horse Inn
Steamboat Springs — The city of Steamboat Springs has closed on an $80,000 land purchase that will guarantee the public always has access to the portion of the Yampa River between the Iron Horse Inn and Hitchens Island.
The city’s purchase of the southern portion of Hitchens Island it doesn’t already own will also give the city the option to create a public park there someday in the future.
While the river in the area will become public property, the southern portion of the island will remain off limits to the public for some time.
Amy Goodwin, the landowner who sold the property to the city, was granted a life lease on the island so that she can continue to graze her horses there as she has done for many years.
Through Goodwin’s lifetime, that southern portion of the island will remain fenced off for horse grazing and not open to the public.
“It’s an awesome, long-term project for this community,” said Winnie DelliQuadri, assistant to City Manager Gary Suiter. “What we did is get legal public access to the river.”
The transaction ultimately builds upon a handshake deal that was made over dinner and a round of drinks more than 30 years ago at The Cove, a long-gone Chinese restaurant in Steamboat.
Melvin Hitchens, a ski jumper who owned the part of the island Goodwin now owns, agreed to allow the public to access the Yampa near his portion of the island he wasn’t using for grazing.
In return, the city allowed Hitchens to graze his horses on land the city owned.
Hitchens cared for horses on the island into his 80s.
City officials have praised Goodwin as a great neighbor on the island. They are also pleased the deal will allow Goodwin to continue grazing her horses there for the rest of her life.
After Goodwin’s lifetime, the entire island will be open to the public and could be turned into a park.
The short-term impacts of the deal go beyond the access to the river.
Purchasing the island will allow the city to make public improvements on the riverbank near the Iron Horse Inn across from the island.
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