Discussion about Core Trail expansion in Steamboat draws a crowd | SteamboatToday.com

Discussion about Core Trail expansion in Steamboat draws a crowd

Wheels turning for path extension; city gives water rates initial OK

Gordon Jones walks his dog along the Yampa River Core Trail just west of the Stock Bridge Transit Center. The City Council discussed the idea of extending the trail with the Routt County commissioners on Tuesday night.
John F. Russell

— Conceptual discussions about extending the Yampa River Core Trail west of city limits drew a crowd to Centennial Hall on Tuesday night.

About 30 supporters of connecting city trails to subdivisions and open space west of Steamboat Springs came to Centennial Hall for a discussion between Steamboat Springs City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners about a multimillion dollar project that’s been part of area community plans for more than a decade but still faces significant financial and logistical hurdles.

“The real issues are funding, right-of-way acquisition and what’s the best route,” Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said. “And those three are inextricably intertwined.”

Support for the idea, conceptually, was widespread Tuesday night. City and county officials agreed with members of the public who spoke about the health, safety, environmental, congestion and quality of life benefits of connecting the Core Trail system to the Steamboat II, Silver Spur and Heritage Park subdivisions.

But Mitsch Bush noted that most sources of grant funding require rights-of-way and easements to be acquired before any funding is issued. She added that creating a trail along the Yampa River and shale cliffs on the city’s west side would be “an engineering nightmare.”

Commissioner Doug Monger earned a round of applause from the crowd for his idea to take the trail system north on Routt County Road 129 from U.S. Highway 40, then west on Downhill Drive to the under-construction Gossard Parkway, which already has city easements and will connect to the proposed Overlook Park development. A trail then theoretically could be extended to Silver Spur across the land slated for the Steamboat 700 annexation that city voters rejected in March.

City Council directed city staff to explore the easements that would be required for a route close to the river and a route using Gossard Parkway.

The city and county are facing very tight budgets, but there was plenty of optimism in Centennial Hall nonetheless.

“We all recognize the pressure on city and county finances right now … but let’s not overlook this project,” said Joe Cashen, a member of the Silver Spur homeowners association. “We’re talking about 3 or 4 million dollars, at best.”

Councilman Walter Magill suggested that a tax measure to fund the project could be placed on local ballots in November 2011.

Also Tuesday night, City Council voted unanimously to give initial support for water and wastewater rate increases recommended by Red Oak Consulting, a division of the national environmental engineering firm Malcolm Pirnie.

Council supported a residential billing option that would emphasize a tiered approach to billing according to water usage, as opposed to an option that would place an additional burden on second homeowners by implementing a larger, base service charge and assessing usage charges only after the first 4,000 gallons per month.

“I do think that people need to pay for what they use … and it will help us, to some degree, to spare the lower water users,” City Council President Cari Hermacinski said about the preferred option.

Red Oak is recommending the increased rates, and increased tap fees for new construction, to fund as much as $70 million of water and wastewater improvement projects facing the city.

A second and final reading of the ordinance could occur Sept. 21. The new rates could be implemented Jan. 1.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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