CU students leading effort to study outdoor recreation potential in Hayden

Community forums later this month will help envision Hayden's future

Nathan Silva casts a line into the Yampa River from the shoreline in Hayden. University of Colorado students are leading an effort to study outdoor recreation potential in Hayden.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Several Yampa Valley outdoor recreation businesses utilize areas around Hayden in their work. Some offer snowmobiling, others use the stretch of the river for rafting and fishing.

The town’s Community Development Director Tegan Ebbert said Hayden itself has few recreation-based businesses, though.

“There are commercial businesses that use the stretch of the river that goes past Hayden, but none of them are Hayden-based businesses,” Ebbert said. “They might be Yampa Valley companies, but how do we make it so the community members in Hayden can enter that economic sector and have successful outdoor recreation based businesses?”

On March 22 and 24, a team of Masters of the Environment students at the University of Colorado is going to start the process of trying to answer that question.

The town has been chosen to participate in what’s called the modified Outdoor Recreation for Rural Communities Program, which hopes to gauge the community’s vision for expanding recreation opportunities and see how it can add to the local economy as the closure of economic drivers like the Hayden Station power plant looms at the end of the decade.

The town had applied for a federal version of the program, but wasn’t selected, so the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office decided to fund the student’s work.

The effort will start with an evening session at 5:30 p.m. on March 22 that Ebbert said will be a visioning session, where community members can share their vision for recreation in Hayden. Then at 9 a.m. on March 22 there will be an all-day session that hopes to come up with action items for how to meet that vision.

Hayden residents and anyone interested in the future of outdoor recreation in the town are invited to participate in two forums later this month.
Town of Hayden/Courtesy

Ebbert said the students would then work to create a report that they would present to Town Council in May.

“We’re not going to be Steamboat, we don’t have a mountain, and we’re not going to draw the tourism that Steamboat has, however, there haven’t been steps to see what that potential is,” Ebbert said. “If it ultimately gives people in Hayden who are really passionate about outdoor recreation the opportunity to financially benefit from it, be able to live and work in Hayden and recreate in Hayden.”

A significant goal of the study is to see how recreational opportunities can expand for residents in Hayden. For example, Ebbert said they don’t have an access point on the Yampa River in town. This could identify whether that is something the town should be pursuing.

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Recreation also isn’t very accessible in Hayden, so Ebbert said she has reached out to a variety of groups in the valley like STARS, Yampa Valley Autism and Integrated Community to hear from voices that are not always part of recreation conversations.

Ebbert said people who are passionate about gravel bike riding, adding access to the river or increasing fishing opportunities should all consider attending to share their thoughts.

“People who kind of have a passion for outdoor recreation, people who are entrepreneurial minded and want to talk about potential business opportunities for recreation,” Ebbert said. “The ultimate goal is on a 30,000-foot level is that Hayden, at some point, can have really accessible recreation for all of our demographics that live there, and also have the ability for folks to work in those sectors.”

The evening workshop is scheduled for 5:30-8 p.m. on March 22 at Hayden Town Hall, with the all day forum happening from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 24 at the Haven. Interested participants are asked to RSVP in advance so they can order enough food for lunch on March 24.

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