Parks and Recreation mulls designating trails for certain uses along Emerald Mountain |

Parks and Recreation mulls designating trails for certain uses along Emerald Mountain

All trails on Emerald Mountain are for nonmotorized use, including ebikes, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation commissioners asked Director Angela Cosby during a regular meeting Wednesday to look into the future of commercial recreation on Emerald Mountain.

Commissioners specifically asked Cosby to research putting limits on the type, frequency, size and dates when certain trails are allowed to be used for commercial groups, define what type of commercial use the community wants to see, a fee structure for different groups depending on the impact they have and whether they are a local group and implementing more user-specific trails for bicyclists, hikers and runners.

“We want to have open dialogues and talk about this with different groups,” Cosby said.

The commission, which makes recommendations to Steamboat Springs City Council, has not made any final recommendations yet, but members said they hope to have official direction finalized by December. While they did not make final decisions Wednesday, commissioners Brent Demmit and Ben Berend agreed they did not feel Emerald’s trails were overcrowded, and there is still plenty of space for everyone who wants to use the trails to do so.

Steamboat Parks, Open Space and Trails Supervisor Craig Robinson said many community members have expressed frustration, however, with trails being used for different activities at the same time.

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“Multiuse trails are a great concept in the back country on Forest Service trails, but in metro areas like this where it’s getting crowded, we’re seeing user conflicts getting larger and larger, and people want what they want,” Robinson said. “Runners don’t want to be getting impeded by bicyclists, and bicyclists don’t want to turn a corner and see a runner or a hiker.”

Robinson said Emerald’s trails have also gotten dramatically busier over the past several years. According to a trail counter funded by Routt County Riders and used by the city, the stables entrance to Emerald trails has seen 22,988 visitors, and the Blackmer Drive side has seen 13,148 so far in 2021.

Trail traffic on Emerald Mountain in 2021

• Bluffs Loop has been used 24,406 time

• Lupine has been used 13,581 times

• Mollys has been used 5,146 times

• NPR has been used 11,855 times

• Robbies has been used 5,259 times

“Trails are becoming more and more popular here in Steamboat,” Robinson said. “We’re on the map, and people are coming here to recreate.”

While Berend and Demmit, both bicyclists, said they did not see an issue with multiple groups using the trails, Commissioners Michelle Geib and Elizabeth Diamond, both runners, shared opposite perspectives.

“I only run at certain times of the year, because every five minutes, I’m having to pull to the side for a biker, and it’s really frustrating,” Geib said. “As a runner or a hiker, our perspectives are the complete opposite of a bicyclist.”

In addition to discussing issues with multiuse trails, commissioners also focused their conversation around which commercial groups should be able to use Emerald Mountain and when they should be able to use it, as trails are funded by the city and should be accessible to all city residents.

Diamond said because groups are usually confined to one trail for just a few hours at a time, she did not see groups as a bigger problem than hikers and bicyclists using the same spaces.

Several groups host running and bicycling races on Emerald Mountain trails, and Demmit said while current events are not an inconvenience, more events could lead to annoyances.

“If we have 10 more events, that’s a big chunk of the summer, and that would significantly impact things,” Demmit said. “But I don’t think we’re even close to the tipping point.”

Parks and Recreation will again discuss the future of recreation on Emerald Mountain at its next meeting Sept. 8.

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