Our View: On the right path
Members of the new Steamboat Springs City Council didn’t delay late last month before taking the first step toward creating two new lodging tax steering committees, and that was welcome news — as was the possibility that the city could use a portion of the initial funds to extend the Yampa River Core Trail south of town.
The Yampa Street river walk committee and the trails committee will make recommendations about how best to spend about $6 million in the coming decade on Yampa Street improvements and new hiking and cycling trails in and around Steamboat.
Council is set to begin interviewing seven candidates for each committee Dec. 17.
The general purpose of the funds, which are generated by an existing 1 percent lodging tax, was approved Nov. 5 by city voters who won’t bear the burden of the rededicated tax unless they tend to vacation at home.
The ballot box approval paid off almost immediately when the community’s commitment to improving trails here helped land the August 2014 International Mountain Biking Association World Summit. That’s a big win.
The tax is dedicated to developing amenities that benefit tourism.
It’s not unlikely that the Yampa group will use the $900,000 earmarked for enhancing that commercial district to acquire land and build a pocket park on the river.
The city is leaning toward beginning the trails work with a 3,700-foot (0.7-mile) extension of the Core Trail to the south beginning where it currently ends at Dougherty Road behind the Steamboat Christian Center.
While we understand that a Core Trail extension won’t necessarily enhance Steamboat’s reputation as an international destination for mountain bikers and road cyclists, we think it has other strengths.
The existing Core Trail attracts a broad segment of vacationers, second-home owners and permanent residents. They use it for bicycle commuting, walking off Sunday brunch and accessing public fishing and floating.
On a more pragmatic level, the city has built a long resume by successfully completing concrete and soft-surface trails. That credibility is a magnet for grants like the million-dollar grant the city hopes to arrange with longtime partner Great Outdoors Colorado.
The prompt selection of two projects, a park on Yampa Street and an extension of the proven Core Trail, offers the promise of seeing tangible benefits from the lodging tax in a relatively short period of time. And after a year of spinning wheels, that’s just what this initiative needs.
We also think that in the long term, City Council and staff should work to build relationships with the advisory committees. We hope the members of the two new committees never feel as disregarded as the members of last winter’s lodging tax committee felt early this summer, when the old council rejected their recommendations and proceeded to equivocate.
Toward that end, we urge different City Council members to take turns sitting in on both committees’ meetings, whether as ad hoc members or as interested observers.
The result should be that City Council will have an appreciation for the deliberations that went into making the recommendations that come out of those committees.
We’re confident the new lodging tax initiatives hold great promise and certain that visitors and residents alike have a stake in the outcome.
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