Our view: Tracking down trail intel | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Tracking down trail intel

At issue: The city is proposing to spend $20K on a trail usage study. Our view: We think that will be money well spent if city leaders use the data to guide future trail-spending decisions. 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.

The hiking and biking trails that surround Steamboat Springs are a significant draw for people who choose to vacation here, but as more and more dollars are invested in this amenity, we think spending money to commission a study to understand visitors’ preferences when it comes to trail use makes good sense.

According to a Dec. 1 news story in Steamboat Today, the city of Steamboat Springs plans to spend up to $20,000 to find out what kind of economic impact the new trails being built around town are having on tourism.

Over the past several months, some city leaders have questioned whether the 2A lodging tax money, which voters approved for trails in 2014, should be spent on more accessible, in-town trails, like the Yampa River Core Trail, rather than building more rugged mountain biking trails further outside of town geared toward more technical riders.

The discussion was prompted by a 2016 intercept survey, conducted by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, which showed the percentage of visitors who said they biked during their vacation to Steamboat had dropped significantly in recent years.

The chamber survey results were met with resistance from several cycling groups, who addressed the council about the conclusions drawn from it. We think a focused study by an outside consultant, plus interviews with trail users, could help settle the ongoing debate by shedding some objective light on the issue through data.

We think it is reasonable, and even wise, for City Council to step back and scrutinize the effectiveness of accommodation taxes being used to build new trails as it prepares to embark on a new 10-year plan for the future of its diverse portfolio of parks and other amenities. This study could help city leaders evaluate whether or not the money that has been spent to build mountain bike trails has delivered on the promise of attracting visitors to Steamboat Springs.

We approve of this study, but only if city officials are prepared to heed the advice and act on it, using the data to help guide future trail-spending decisions. We’d also like to see the $20,000 cost of the study come out of the lodging tax funds.

Significant public dollars are being invested in new trails, and we should be assured those funds are being used to create the biggest impact possible on tourism.

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