Our view: Spring Creek is wrong place for performance venue
We admire Piknik Theater Director Stuart Handloff’s goal of creating a new community performance stage in a serene setting, but we are concerned that Spring Creek Park is the wrong place at the wrong time.
City of Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation commissioners were tentatively receptive this month to Handloff’s proposal to build an amphitheater to seat 200 to 300 in the park. But the commissioners also had some concerns and so do we.
Commission Chairman Alan Koermer pointed out that the city is in the midst of preparing to begin the urgent project of replacing an aging dam at Spring Creek ponds. Koermer expressed concern that pursuing the amphitheater in conjunction with the dam work could lead to delays.
We are at least as concerned about trying to fit more activities into the popular park, which is already seeing enough peaceful conflicts among mountain bikers and hikers that there is an effort to build a separate cycling trail on the upper reach of Spring Creek.
As it is, hiking groups, who aren’t prone to walking single file, have to keep their heads on a swivel as they walk the trail in order to be ready to jump out of the way of cyclists.
We are concerned that by adding one more reason to go to Spring Creek, we’ll be at risk of loving Spring Creek Park to death.
The trail, which leaves the city limits at the intersection of Amethyst Drive and Maple Street, allows Steamboat residents and visitors to enter a special forest environment with a perennial stream. Many turn to Spring Creek Trail for their daily fitness outing, or simply to lift their spirits
Parking is already a significant problem at Spring Creek Park. On a summer day, cars parked on Maple Street stretch all the way to the high school parking lot. Handloff proposes to address that problem by using an electric van to shuttle audience members to the new performance stage from the high school parking lot. We’re concerned over how many van trips it would take to make the short trip to Spring Creek Park while hikers and cyclists are traveling down that same trail.
Piknik Theatre has been hosting performances at Yampa River Botanic Park, but Handloff told Steamboat Today that more and more that venue is booked for summer weddings when the theater most needs an outdoor stage. And increasingly, Handloff added, the noise of traffic on nearby U.S. Highway 40 is making it difficult for audiences to hear the lines being spoken by the actors.
We have two solutions to offer.
During a dramatic reading of the works of Edgar Alan Poe at the Chief Theater this autumn, the Chief Players used unobtrusive lavaliere microphones to project their voices in the intimate theater. We wonder if the same sound equipment might be useful for Piknik Theater’s productions at the botanic park.
Secondly, we’re curious why Handloff hasn’t considered pursuing the use of the city of Steamboat’s Memorial Park on Second Street. The park is just removed from the high school parking lot, within easy walking distance.
Ironically, for many years, Memorial Park was home to an underused amphitheater with a stage, just steps from Spring Creek. We hope Piknik Theatre will consider its revival.
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