Park ranger proposal gets tepid response from Steamboat Springs City Council
Steamboat Springs — The Steamboat Springs City Council isn’t convinced a new park ranger program is the best investment the city can make to keep the Yampa River from being loved to death.
In the 2016 budget, city staff proposed creating a new park ranger division that would be responsible for such things as enforcing rules on the Yampa and educating river users, especially the many tubers who enter the river with their sandals, beer cans and hats and leave without them.
The rangers also could enforce leash laws at local parks, keep trail users off wet trails, issue parking tickets and ensure the cross-country skiers gliding on groomed trails on Emerald Mountain have the necessary passes.
But with the council’s decision Tuesday to reduce the number of employees in the city’s budget proposal, it appears the ranger program won’t make the cut when the budget comes back for a first reading.
Council members did appear to leave the door open to an alternative or more limited proposal.
A day after the program received scrutiny from council members, Parks and Community Services Director John Overstreet was already reaching out to the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to see if enforcement could be contracted out instead.
Kenny Reisman and Walter Magill were among the council members who questioned whether a city ranger program would accomplish the city’s goals, which include significantly reducing the amount of trash that shows up in the Yampa from river users.
They were also concerned the division might not have enough to do in the winter months to justify the program’s cost.
“I don’t think we’re going to get the goal we want out of it,” Magill said of the ranger program.
Magill said he would consider a program that did not add as many hours to the city’s payroll.
Councilwoman Sonja Macys expressed support for the river ranger concept, saying it would be the first investment the city has made to enforce rules on the Yampa.
She added the idea was publicly vetted through the city’s parks and recreation commission.
According to city staff, the current level of enforcement in the city’s parks and waterways is very limited.
Council members themselves called for changes this summer after a busy Fourth of July weekend on the river left behind lots of trash and deflated tubes on the Yampa’s banks.
The ranger program was the city’s response to concerns from both City Council and the public.
Overstreet said community members have for many years raised issues about trash and illegal activities such as off-leash dogs at city parks, but due to staffing levels, the city has been more reactive than proactive in responding to complaints.
The ranger division would include a full-time employee all year and some seasonal employees in the summer.
The personnel cost associated with the program is $115,000.
“These issues aren’t going to go away,” Overstreet said. “We think a ranger program would help mitigate these issues.”
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