Parks and Recreation continues discussion about commercial recreation on Emerald Mountain |

Parks and Recreation continues discussion about commercial recreation on Emerald Mountain

The view from Bluffs Loop on Emerald Mountain overlooks Steamboat Springs. Parks and recreation commissioners are debating how commercial recreation should be regulated on the mountain. l Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

In the fourth discussion about if and how commercial recreation should be regulated on Emerald Mountain, Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation commissioners suggested a new set of rules for the city-owned group of trails.

The discussion is ongoing, and once commissioners finalize a set of criteria, they will bring the ideas to Steamboat Springs City Council, who will have the final say.

Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby told commissioners Thursday that the city should ensure the trails are being well-kept and that city taxpayers should keep access to the recreational area they pay for.

“It’s about the facility use and how the land is being utilized,” Cosby said. “It’s how many people are on the trail, how is the trail being utilized and that kind of land steward mindset.”

After a nearly two-hour discussion, commissioners settled on several ideas for regulation: commercial group sizes not exceeding 10 people, one instructor for every five participants in lessons, no more than 100 participants per day, staggering programs and having city staff create an educational video that participants would be required to watch before enrolling in a lesson, race or another commercial activity on an Emerald Mountain trail.

“It’s allowing the group to be managed well enough that the public is not impacted,” said Commissioner Ben Berand. “If you have 100 people or 75 people going out every 15 minutes, does that create enough space for individual mountain bikers to get in there?”

The group also wanted to explore implementing a $150 annual fee for commercial groups who use the area and a $3.75 daily fee for adults and $3 for youth.

“We don’t expect these services to cover their cost,” Cosby said, adding that programs at Haymaker Golf Course and the Steamboat Tennis Center are tiered by price based on an estimated recovery cost.

Commissioners also wanted to separate mountain bikers from hikers, runners, bird watchers and equestrians, as each activity varies in the impact it has on the trail and other trail users.

Winter commercial activities, which could include fat biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, will be held to the same rules.

Parks and Recreation staff presented data showing that Saturday is the busiest day of the week for Emerald trail usage, with Blackmere, one of the mountain’s most popular trails, seeing between 250-300 visitors on an average Saturday.

To ensure busy trails are still available for public usage, city Parks, Open Spaces and Trails Manager Craig Robinson said the department could require groups to identify what trails they will not be using during an event.

“As far as what trails are you going to be on today, I don’t know if every group can live up to say what trail they’re going to be on, but they can probably tell you what trails they’re going to avoid,” Robinson said.

Some commissioners suggested setting different rules for lessons, tours and competitions, as each brings a different purpose and could potentially leave a different level of impact to the trails and other users.

Commissioner Brent Demmit felt lessons may leave less of a footprint than other commercial operations.

“They’re learning a skill or having an experience, and that’s what’s coming to Steamboat is about,” Demmit said. “I think it’s a relatively low impact compared to some of the other programming that we do.”

Commissioners also wanted to limit the number of groups per outfitter each day, as well as provide better signage about where groups should park, so the rodeo grounds parking lot does not become clogged with commercial users.

The parks and recreation commission will discuss the item again at their February meeting.

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