Our view: Westward ho!

At issue

Extension of Core Trail west of Steamboat to serve a potential new school and a growing population

Our view

We think community leaders should collaborate and come up with a plan to create a trail extension to the west

The bike-themed Coffee and a Newspaper, sponsored by the Steamboat Pilot & Today last Wednesday night, attracted more than 75 people and sparked a lively discussion between members of the community and representatives from bike groups and land managers across town, including Routt County Riders, Bike Town USA, the 2A Trails Committee, the U.S. Forest Service, the city of Steamboat Springs and the bike park at Steamboat Ski Area.

And it was the ideas tossed around for improved bike trails at the gathering, paired with the newspaper’s recent coverage of construction options being considered by the Steamboat Springs School District, that inspired us to begin thinking about an extension of the widely used Yampa River Core Trail to serve west Steamboat.

It has become clear, as the school district has been vetting its plans to build a new school to alleviate overcrowding at its existing campuses, that a district-owned tract of land near the Steamboat II and Silver Spur subdivisions west of Steamboat has risen to the top as the district’s preferred building site. The property is large enough to accommodate a school sized to meet future enrollment needs, and it would serve the side of town where significant population growth and possible new residential construction are expected to occur outside the city limits in the coming years as the economy continues to rebound.

With the addition of a new high school or elementary school in West Steamboat, it seems imperative to us that community leaders begin working together now to create a plan for expanding trail access and provide a safe route for students and families to travel to and from the new campus.

In addition to serving the school, creating a trail extension to the west would give those living west of Steamboat a better way to safely get into town by bike or on foot. It would also enhance the community’s most used public amenity to serve the many visitors who are looking for beginner trails where they can recreate with their children and families.

We realize extending the concrete Core Trail along the river would be a costly project, and we also know that efforts in the past to extend the trail west have been stymied by various factors, including cost, easements issues and lack of political will.

Back in 2011, the Steamboat Springs City Council approached the Routt County Commission about the possibility of teaming up to build a trail to the Steamboat II and Silver Spur neighborhoods, and the idea got a cold reception. At that time, commissioners were much more concerned, as they should have been, with restoring cuts to employees’ salaries that were made during the recession rather than setting aside money for trail projects.

Putting the past behind us, we think it’s a good time for school district leaders, Routt County commissioners and members of the 2A Trails Committee to meet and revive the discussion about expanding trail access to the west with opportunities to share resources, leverage funds and work together to pursue grant opportunities.

We can envision a soft-surface, multi-modal trail to begin with — a route that possibly crosses U.S. Highway 40, extends up Downhill Drive and uses a road easement to cut through the former Steamboat 700 property on the north side of the highway and extend to the neighborhoods farther west.

Obviously, we haven’t figured out the logistics of a project like this, but we think it could provide a good place to begin the discussion. We encourage the community and its leaders to re-prioritize and reconsider options for the extension of pedestrian and bike paths to the west to serve the existing population as well as the new school that seems destined to be built there.

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