Our view: Roll out the welcome mat | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Roll out the welcome mat

At issue: City Council offered a tepid response to the city manager’s proposal to allow Ride the Rockies cyclists to camp at Howelsen. Our view: Council needs to uphold our Bike Town USA image and seize the opportunity to host thousands of riders at a park close to Steamboat’s downtown business corridor. Editorial Board • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher • Lisa Schlichtman, editor • Tom Ross, reporter • Hannah Hoffman, community representative • Bob Schneider, community representative Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

Last week, Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter proposed to City Council that riders participating in this summer’s Ride the Rockies be allowed to camp at Howelsen Hill as they pedal through the state and possibly stop in Steamboat overnight.

The response from several council members was tepid at best, and we couldn’t have been more surprised by that reaction.

For a city that prides itself on being Bike Town USA, the council’s lack of enthusiasm for Suiter’s idea flies in the face of that moniker and was downright inhospitable to a demographic that we think the city should welcome to town.

The ride, which has been around since 1986, attracts around 2,000 riders from across the country and routes them across the state. They don’t always come through Steamboat, and we hope the council’s reservations about camping accommodations here don’t prompt organizers to second-guess a stop in Steamboat this summer.

Just a few weeks ago, the council seemed excited about a proposal by Council President Walter Magill to offer $1 lift tickets at Howelsen, and in the process, garner state and national publicity for the historic hill. And although the council eventually voted down the idea, we find it very odd that Suiter’s idea to have cyclists camp at Howelsen didn’t earn the same positive response as the lift ticket proposal, again because of the positive exposure it would bring to the park.

We agree with Suiter’s position that allowing Ride the Rockies cyclists to camp at Howelsen would benefit the city. It would introduce a captive audience of riding enthusiasts to Steamboat and its bike trail system, and it would place all those riders within walking distance of downtown restaurants, bike shops and other retail businesses.

It seems short-sighted, and frankly, a little silly, that some council members wanted to protect the city park from being “destroyed” by hesitating to say “yes” to Suiter’s proposal.

City parks are there to be enjoyed by the public, and we think allowing cyclists to camp at one of Bike Town USA’s premier parks is a great way to promote Steamboat and its reputation as a terrific biking destination while driving downtown business, which in turn means more sales tax revenue for the city.

We also think it should be easy for city officials to invoke trash pickup rules or fees when issuing the camping permit and also to request that Ride the Rockies organizers take steps to mitigate any negative impacts camping could have on the park. It’s a well-organized ride that’s been around for three decades, and we are confident organizers would work hard to make sure riders treated Howelsen with respect.

As Magill stated, moving the Ride the Rockies camping spot from Steamboat Springs High School to Howelsen Hill will be just “fine,” and we’re glad the city is moving forward with the permitting process despite some council members’ reservations. But going forward, we encourage City Council to do a much better job of rolling out the red carpet for groups visiting our community than they did when discussing this most recent opportunity with Ride the Rockies.

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