Local cycling groups eye an easier path up Emerald Mountain | SteamboatToday.com

Local cycling groups eye an easier path up Emerald Mountain

Matt Gerzina rides on Emerald Mountain in 2013.
Scott Franz

— Local cycling advocates want to take some of the pain out of the initial climb up Emerald Mountain.

To do this, they are proposing a new trail that would give children and beginner mountain bikers a gentler path up the mountain.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that we currently suffer through the first half the mountain to enjoy the upper half when we could very easily enjoy the lower half as well,” Routt County Riders Vice President Eric Meyer said.

On Wednesday, Meyer and other cycling advocates made their case to the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission for why a new trail is needed.

Meyer said he once took a group of young children on a biking field trip on Emerald Mountain. But because of the initial steep climb up the mountain that boasts 29 miles of established trails, it was more of a hiking day than a biking day for the 6- to 12-year-olds.

“By the time we got up there (to access the beginner and intermediate trails), the kids were done,” Meyer said

Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare manager Derek Hodson also believes Emerald is a tough place to bike for beginners, children and even experienced out-of-state cyclists who are not accustomed to the altitude.

Cyclists can find some gentle trails up on Emerald, but first, they face a series of steep grades.

“It takes some suffering to get up these slopes,” Hodson said. “Just because we’re locally super fit doesn’t mean these trails (on Emerald) shouldn’t be accessible to others.”

To further illustrate the challenge of getting up to the mountain bike trails on Emerald, Hodson said some physically fit members of Steamboat’s Over The Hill Gang have been requesting mountain bikes with motors in them that can assist with the uphill pedaling.

Routt County Riders is proposing that a new, gentler trail be built that would run from the horse stables parking lot at the base of Howelsen Hill up to the Ricky’s Ridge trail on Emerald.

They say it would also be more sustainable than the existing trails that are used on the lower part of the mountain.

Routt County Riders would like the new trail to be built this year.

But the Parks and Recreation Commission learned Wednesday that building the trail could be a challenge, and the public should first decide whether the trail is necessary.

Craig Robinson, the city’s parks, open space and trails manager, said the city first needs to engage the public about the potential trail for a number of reasons.

It could potentially impact the views from the nearby Brooklyn neighborhood and bring more noise and traffic, he said.

And because the trail would run parallel to an existing trail, some existing trails would likely need to be vacated.

“Right now, we’re overwhelmed with (trail) maintenance,” Robinson said. “Should we be adding a new trail without closing some of our existing trails?”

Robinson said there were other questions for the Parks and Recreation Commission to consider.

Is Emerald the best place to put a trail that would be enticing to beginners, or is there a better spot for it?

“Is it the mountain bike mecca for everybody or is there a better place for beginners?,” he asked.

Robinson added the city hasn’t been hearing from the general public that the existing trails on Emerald are too steep.

The Parks and Recreation Commission resolved to discuss the beginner access trails at a public meeting April 22.

Commissioners also wanted to walk the proposed route of the trail this summer when the trails dry out.

Meanwhile, the committee that is overseeing the spending of lodging tax dollars on trail improvements has recommended the city look into the prospect of building another beginner access trail on Emerald.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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