Commissioners generally support extension of Yampa River Core Trail west through Brown Ranch
No official agreement was reached in joint city-county meeting
In the 1990s, a group known as the Yampa Valley Trail Alliance envisioned a trail that would extend along the Yampa River from its headwaters in the Flat Tops Mountains to near the Utah border in Dinosaur.
While a small part of that initial vision has been built — known as the Yampa River Core Trail — the highly popular concrete path is only within the city limits of Steamboat Springs.
Efforts to expand the Core Trail have come up often over the last two decades, both south along the river toward Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area and to neighborhoods west of town. There have been several incremental increases over the years.
But as the west side of Steamboat, namely the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch Project, has seemingly become the answer for local housing woes, supporters of extending the trail say building it is now about more than recreation.
“There has been a shift of thinking from these trails for solely recreation purposes to more of transportation and community purposes,” said Routt County Planning Director Kristy Winser in a joint meeting between city and county leaders Monday.
Winser is currently leading the effort to create a new master plan for the county, and transportation is a common theme among residents across the county, she said. The common denominator in many comments about transportation is the desire for Core Trail expansion.
When the city and county last discussed the expansion last summer, commissioners said they were somewhat surprised by an ask from council for about $440,000 to match funding the city had already set aside. At the time, commissioners said it seemed like a steep price when there were other priorities in the community, though there never was an official vote.
Commissioner Beth Melton said Monday the board supports expanding the Core Trail.
“Commissioners are very interested in this project, very supportive of the partnership and going forward with figuring out this extension,” Melton said.
The difference for the county, Melton explained, is that funding would likely need to come out of the general fund and not an accommodation tax that is raised for the purpose of trails like the city.
One funding source could be the county’s $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. Final guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury allows communities to claim up to $10 million in lost revenues from the pandemic, and that money could be used on almost any government expense.
Previous guidance had limited spending to six different priorities, and it was unclear whether a project like this would have qualified. County Manager Jay Harrington is currently working to collect potential project ideas for this money, which so far is largely unallocated.
The proposed extension would add more concrete trail from Snow Bowl Plaza to near Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park, before the trail would go under U.S. Highway 40 near Slate Creek. It would then transition to a soft surface or dirt trail as it winds through what is now the Brown Ranch property until it arrived near the Silver Spur neighborhood.
Steamboat Springs Public Works Director Jon Snyder said the project in all would cost about $4.5 million, mostly funded through grants. One grant he has in mind from the Colorado Department of Transportation would only require there to be a 20% local match of about $900,000.
Council member Heather Sloop suggested that commissioners should look at trail construction like this similarly to how they plan maintenance and replacements of roads across the county, which are accounted for 30 years in advance. Commissioner Tim Corrigan said that could be difficult due to the county’s requirements to adhere to the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.
“We are constrained with revenues, and sometimes that’s why we’re a little difficult to pry money out of,” Corrigan said.
A bid for cooperation between the two entities came from Steamboat council president Robin Crossan.
“All the residents of Steamboat Springs are part of Routt County,” Crossan said. “We all need to be cognizant of that as we move forward with funding.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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