Our view: City wise to pursue hikers-only trail
Spring Creek Trail is one of Steamboat Springs’ most popular trails. It’s an easy hike close to downtown that is accessible to visitors, a place where locals go to run and walk their dogs and a trail that provides mountain bikers with access to Buffalo Pass.
With more and more people using the trail — hikers, mountain bikers, tourists, locals — Spring Creek is busy, especially on weekends, and the chance for conflicts between cyclists and hikers has been elevated as of late.
The pending construction of a new downhill-only mountain bike trail that will funnel mountain bikers off the Buff Pass trail system, into Spring Creek Canyon and onto Spring Creek Trail has the potential to accelerate that conflict, and the proposal has been a topic of community discussion. Some think the trail is key to getting mountain bike traffic off of Buff Pass, while others think it will make the bottom of Spring Creek trail too congested and would negatively impact other trail users.
With that dilemma in mind, we were happy to see the city come to the table with an idea that we think offers a solution that could maximize use of the trail by all users. That plan, which was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday night, would create a new hikers-only trail off of the current Spring Creek Trail pending agreements with landowners who own water rights in the ditch.
According to the city, the proposed hiking trail would start near the existing Spring Creek Trail and gain elevation to the Steamboat Gardens Ditch where it is culverted and near where an unsanctioned trail already exists. The new trail would follow the culverted section and then exit off of Gardens Ditch to a newly constructed section of trail. The trail would be engineered, according to the city, to allow hikers to safely cross the downhill bike trail and connect back to the Spring Creek Trail.
The trail will be built using money from the 2A Trails Accommodations Tax, and we think it’s a good use of that funding. Creating a hiking-only trail in the area will give hikers an option to enjoy the area without the stress of encountering downhill mountain bikers, and it also counters the claims that 2A Trails money is only being used to built technical, single-track trails and not trails that can be enjoyed by a wider ranger of users.
The current ditch path off of Spring Creek is a heavily used route that people enjoy year-round, but it is not a sanctioned trail. According to Interim Parks and Recreation Director Craig Robinson, the city is not sure when the trail was first constructed, but it was not part of the Spring Creek Mountain Park Plan, which was adopted in the 1990s.
In recent weeks, the city put up signs letting users know the unsanctioned trail would be closed, which caused some concern among users. The well-traveled path serves as a loop trail that starts and ends at the parking area at the intersection of Amethyst and Maple streets near the high school.
Part of the trouble with the current ditch trail is that people don’t realize they are often walking on private property when using the footpath. The new trail will be built with easement agreements in place and will provide hikers with a sanctioned route. The city hopes to complete the new trail before they close the old one.
And while we don’t support the idea of people trespassing and creating unauthorized trails — a valid objection raised by Kris Middledorf, area wildlife manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife — we think in this particular case creating a new trail near this well-traveled path makes sense.
If completed, the new trail would legitimize portions of unsanctioned areas of the currently used path by bringing all of the trail onto city property, and it would also help minimize conflicts between users — a win-win for mountain bikers and hikers.
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