Parks master plan takes shape, but where will the money come from? | SteamboatToday.com
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Parks master plan takes shape, but where will the money come from?

Hikers enjoy a summer day on Emerald Mountain in June 2013. Steamboat Springs ranked high in a fitness challenge last month in which participants strived to log at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Recommendations likely to be included in a new parks and recreation master plan call for repairs to infrastructure on Howelsen Hill, extensions to the Yampa River Core Trail and changes to use of the Yampa River.

Funding to build and maintain many of these projects is not available, and consultants provided the city information on how the public perceives new funding options.

In all, Logan Simpson, the consulting firm that is producing the master plan, estimated it would cost $23 million to complete the projects that it considered the highest priority. These include the projects listed above, as well as implementing the Yampa River Structural Plan, preserving open space in Steamboat and creating parking at the Emerald Mountain trailhead on Blackmere Drive.

Some of these are already included in the city’s plans for capital improvement projects, including improvements on Howelsen Hill and restoration projects on the Yampa. Of the nearly 20 approved Parks and Recreation Department projects on the city’s capital improvement project list, all but three are capital maintenance, meaning the city is working to maintain and improve the facilities it already owns.

Projects on the list receive a numerical rank based on a matrix of values.

“With parks and recreation items, it’s challenging for ours to rate higher than police and fire needs and water and sewer needs, which are identified as core services,” said Craig Robinson, interim director of the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Department. “Parks and recreation are not necessarily, as we’ve been told, a core service, but they’re very important to the community.”

Several of Logan Simpson’s high-priority recommendations, such as extending the Core Trail and parking on Blackmere Drive, would require new infrastructure. The firm recommended the city avoid funding new projects unless it has funding to maintain them.

In a community survey, Logan Simpson asked full-time Steamboat residents and second-home owners if they would support new tax measures to fund improvements in the city’s parks and recreation department.

Of the options presented, the one that had the most community support was an additional 0.5 percent sales tax, which would equate to 50 cents of tax on a $100 purchase. This would generate $33.6 million in revenue.

Another option that had public support was a 1 percent increase in the accommodations tax, which 66 percent of those surveyed said they would support. Several recreation projects are currently funded by an accommodations tax.

Choices to implement two different rates of property taxes saw the strongest opposition of the funding options presented.

The city is currently exploring new funding mechanisms for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue and community services.

“I know the city has other needs. When faced with other sales tax projects or initiatives, it might be throttled,” said Jana McKenzie, of Logan Simpson.

For now, all of these recommendations remain just that: recommendations. No action has been taken by the city to implement new funding measures specifically for parks and recreation.

This story is the final article in a five-part series about recommendations likely to be included in the parks, recreation, open space, trails and river master plan.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@steamboattoday.com or follow her on Twitter, @elHasenbeck.


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