New master plan likely to prioritize repairs at Howelsen Hill
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – A new parks and recreation master plan is in development, and repair and upgrades to infrastructure at Howelsen Hill Park are likely priorities.
Representatives of Logan Simpson, the consulting firm creating the plan, shared recommendations it intended to include in the new master plan in a meeting with the Steamboat Spring Parks and Recreation Commission last week.
In a community survey of 574 full-time Steamboat residents and second-homeowners, replacements and upgrades to bathroom facilities, improvements to pedestrian and bicycle connections and stabilization of the jumps at the city’s historic ski area were found to be the improvements on Howelsen Hill that are most important to the community. The firm found only 35 percent of survey participants supported modifying the Barrows Chairlift to accommodate bicycles year-round.
Basic maintenance at Howelsen Hill ranks as the community’s second priority overall when it came to parks and recreation. It was beat out only by the community’s desire to improve the health of the Yampa River.
The highest priority improvements recommended by Logan Simpson call for repairs and upgrades to existing facilities at Howelsen Hill. If the recommendations are implemented, the city would repair ski lifts and jumps and work to stabilize infrastructure on the hill.
The skate park, restrooms, concessions and Olympian Hall would be upgraded, and more trees would be planted in the park.
“The lift is critical for the community to continue to ski at Howelsen,” said Jim Boyne, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, which is headquartered at the base of Howelsen Hill.
In this five-part series, we explore the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department’s draft master plan.
Friday: Funding questions remain for proposed improvements
The Barrows Chairlift, which is currently closed due to safety concerns, carries people to all levels of Alpine skiing terrain in the winter and to the top of the Alpine Slide in the summer. Boyne said the lift is nearing the end of its lifespan, even without the problems caused by an unstable lift tower.
The park’s other lift, the Schnackenberg Poma Lift, is hard for beginners to use, he said. It’s also only functional as a lift when there is snow on the ground.
Logan Simpson estimated basic maintenance on existing facilities and stabilizing the ski jumps would cost an estimated $7.1 million.
The firm also identified long-term, lower priority goals for Howelsen Hill. These call for reconfiguring the park to improve traffic flow, parking and improving connectivity to pedestrian and bike paths.
Another recommendation would consolidate storage sheds used by the city and the Winter Sports Club into new buildings to reduce their visual impact and improve function. Boyne said the Winter Sports Club’s sheds were not built strategically, but “tactically,” with funds that were available at the time. He praised the idea of consolidating storage to make the park look “more tidy or more visually appealing.”
Within its lower priority goals, the firm will likely recommend the city relocate at least two baseball fields to build an open space for community events, like festivals and the farmers market. Implementing this plan would require a new sports complex to replace the baseball fields at Howelsen, and the estimated cost of implementation is greater than $14 million.
“We heard over and over again people don’t like the way it’s functioning right now from a community-use standpoint,” said Jana McKenzie, of Logan Simpson, about Howelsen Hill. “Those are some of the long-term goals that might make that happen, but again, it comes with a pretty high price tag.”
If the baseball fields are moved to a new location, Boyne said he hoped the city would find a way to honor the people who contributed to construct the fields at Howelsen Hill.
“Howelsen Hill is capacity constrained,” he said. “There’s only so much of it there, and if they’re able to find a way to successfully put ballfields somewhere else where there is more room, I think that’d be great, but I think it’s important to know that people did build those things. I hope the city is working with those supporters to make sure they feel good about what’s going on.”
This story is one of a five-part series about recommendations likely to be included in the parks, recreation, open space, trails and river master plan.
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