Our view: A place for all people to play | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: A place for all people to play

At issue:

STARS has received approval to move forward with plans to build a lodge and new offices at a site on the south edge of town

Our view:

The STARS Ranch project will put Steamboat on the map when it comes to adaptive sports and inclusiveness

Steamboat Springs is known around the world as Ski Town USA and Bike Town USA. We’re a community that’s built a reputation for producing Olympic athletes, and the Steamboat lifestyle is all about hopping on a bike or strapping on a pair of skis and enjoying all the outdoor opportunities that abound in our valley.

That’s why we think it says a lot about our recreation-loving community that Steamboat now has the opportunity to become known as a town that fosters inclusiveness and encourages sports and recreation for people of all abilities through a new adaptive sports complex that Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports — STARS — is planning to break ground on next year.

We were glad when STARS received final approval from county planning in May to move ahead with plans to build a lodge and office headquarters on property located at the south edge of Steamboat along U.S. Highway 40.

The vision for the STARS Ranch project is inspiring. The 15,000-square-foot facility, which will include a 32-bed lodge and new administrative offices, is being built to better serve the nonprofit’s mission of facilitating adaptive recreational activities for people with cognitive and physical disabilities.

The facility is being built without any public money — the organization has embarked on a $5.5 million fundraising campaign to make the ranch a reality — but once completed, it stands to have a definite economic impact on Steamboat.

STARS clients typically travel to Steamboat with their families, and those families rent condos, shop and eat out at local restaurants during their visit. Through STARS, Steamboat is benefitting from a nontraditional form of tourism that seems to be growing.

In addition, construction of STARS Ranch will give the organization room to grow. Thanks to expansion of the organization’s summer programming, the number of STARS clients is increasing by about 20 to 25 percent each year. In 2015-16, STARS served 570 individuals and offered 3,253 lessons.

According to Executive Director Julie Taulman, the STARS staff is also poised to increase from seven full-time employees to 15 or 16 once the ranch is operational. In addition, STARS employs another dozen seasonal, part-time employees.

The new facility will give STARS a permanent home and permanent presence in Steamboat, and according to Taulman, there won’t be another facility like it in the state of Colorado, which further puts Steamboat on the map when it comes to inclusivity and recreation.

The fact that the STARS organization has flourished in Steamboat is testament to the type of community we’ve become. Steamboat has supported the organization’s good work, which includes wounded warriors camps as well as skiing and biking programs for people of all ages with disabilities.

When the STARS Ranch becomes a reality, it will set Steamboat apart from other mountain communities. It differentiates us a place where inclusiveness is valued — a place where everyone, regardless of their ability, can come to play.

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