Lodging tax revenue used to install enhanced pedestrian crossings, make Lower Spring Creek Trail safer | SteamboatToday.com

Lodging tax revenue used to install enhanced pedestrian crossings, make Lower Spring Creek Trail safer

A cyclist zips down a trail near Spring Creek. One of the first lodging tax trail projects included an extension of the Lower Spring Creek Trail to a better pedestrian crossing at Amethyst Drive. The trail extension formed a better connection from downtown Steamboat to the Spring Creek area.
Scott Franz

— A trio of enhanced pedestrian crossings and a safer Lower Spring Creek Trail in Steamboat Springs are the first signs that hundreds of thousands of lodging tax dollars are starting to be spent to improve local trail systems.

When the new crosswalk signals go live in the coming days, the first chapter of a decade-long era of funding local trail improvements with the lodging tax will have concluded.

The enhanced crosswalks, which use flashing lights to make crossings more visible, and a reroute of the Lower Spring Creek Trail were paid for with some of the $300,000 in lodging tax money that was available for trails in 2014.

Some of the other projects funded by that first $300,000 have been delayed until next construction season.

Pete Wither, one of the seven committee members who is overseeing how the tax revenue is spent on trails, said he was excited to see what the dollars were able to accomplish in Year 1.

The work on the Lower Spring Creek Trail created a new small section of the trail that connects it to an enhanced pedestrian crossing at Amethyst Drive and East Maple Street.

Previously, the trail went up a steeper hill and onto Amethyst a few hundred feet away from the popular pedestrian crossing.

Wither said local bike shops now will be able to recommend an easier and safer ride to tourists.

The trail connects downtown to the popular Spring Creek Trail.

“I’m pretty excited to see we were able to fund and complete that little trail extension,” Wither said. “It will be safer for everybody to cross.”

The enhanced pedestrian crossings are being installed at the intersection of Amethyst and East Maple, the Yampa River Core Trail where it crosses Mount Werner Road near Rotary Park and from the Knoll Parking Lot to the Gondola Transit Center.

In addition to the enhanced crossings and the work on the Lower Spring Creek Trail, lodging tax dollars also were spent to kick-start a master planning process with the U.S. Forest Service that could lay the groundwork for new trails on places like Rabbit Ears Pass, Buffalo Pass and near Mad Creek.

Lodging tax projects that received funding this year but were not completed include an overhaul of the popular Ridge Trailhead on the west side of Emerald, the construction of 1.5-mile-long Wild Rose Trail on Emerald and the construction of a new directional trail on Emerald between Blackmer Drive and the Orton property line.

All three are poised to be completed next year.

Winnie DelliQuadri, the city’s government programs manager, said projects like the Ridge Trailhead improvements weren’t realized this year because some deadlines with the Bureau of Land Management couldn’t be met.

The agency requires that funding for any projects on their lands be secured during a procurement period in March and April.

However, the lodging tax committee wasn’t able to make its recommendations for trail projects before that deadline.

With the money now secured, the Ridge Trailhead and Wild Rose projects are set to be completed next year.

DelliQuadri said the parking lot at the trailhead will be doubled, and there also is a plan to add a bathroom at the site.

The committee overseeing the funding of lodging tax projects isn’t scheduled to meet to start talking about 2015 project funding until January or February.

The projects funded so far rose to the top of the committee’s list after an extensive vetting process.

“I think the committee did a really good job of looking at all the proposed trails in depth and coming up with their plan,” DelliQuadri said.

Thanks to the overwhelming support of voters in 2013, trail projects here will be backed by $300,000 of lodging tax funding every year until 2017.

The trail funding then increases to $600,000 annually for the remaining seven years the tax has been dedicated.

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

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