Recreation and conservation plan ready in August for public comment
Dry Lake Trailhead webcam is first tangible action
The Routt Recreation and Conservation Roundtable, a group with broad representation that evolved out of the Mad Rabbit trails mediation process, is working to complete a countywide draft plan of recommendations by August.
The plan is intended to help balance recreation and conservation concerns in the face of ever-increasing demands for outdoor access and trails in Routt County. The plan recommendations will be open for several months of public comments following completion of the draft in August, said facilitator Matthew Mulica, senior project director at nonprofit Keystone Policy Center in Summit County. After public input, the roundtable members will seek funding to help implement recommendations through the next three years.
Working under a current framework of 12 draft goals toward conservation, recreation and destination management, some of the proposed actions items to implement range from adding more webcams for users to see busy recreation parking lots to creating a volunteer winter snow ranger program for wildlife closure areas to educate users.
The first tangible measure completed from the plan is a solar-powered web camera installed at the busy Dry Lake Trailhead parking area on the road to Buffalo Pass. The camera uploads an image every 15 minutes so that recreationalists can see how busy the area is beforehand. The webcam is viewable via SteamboatChamber.com/webcams.
The updated webcam is part of an ongoing “Know Before You Go” effort by the roundtable’s Destination Management subcommittee that is working to ease congestion and educate users on responsible recreation practices in backcountry areas throughout Routt County.
Organizers believe that making more information available should assist recreation users to spread out their use and make responsible decisions about how and when to recreate. After observing the parking status online, users can develop a backup plan. Since the Dry Lake Trailhead parking lot has limited space, recreationalists could find a different destination for the day or carpool.
“Our hope is that this webcam will ease the parking congestion that the Dry Lake Trailhead sees during peak usage times, lessen the impact on the local environment and wildlife, and encourage good stewardship amongst all recreationists,” said Laura Soard, Steamboat Springs Chamber marketing director.
Michael Woodbridge, U.S. Forest Service Hahns Peak-Bears Ears District ranger, noted, “As more people adventure out into our beautiful lands, we’ve identified high-impact areas requiring greater oversight. To keep these areas accessible to users today and in the future, we ask that recreationists check this webcam before leaving their homes or hotel rooms to ensure parking is available and avoid heavy-use periods.”
The Routt Recreation and Conservation Roundtable, which was officially chartered in August 2021, includes 22 official members that represent a broad range of interests such as land management agencies, business, nonprofit groups and a range of motorized and non-motorized recreation groups from adaptive users to equestrians to snowmobilers. The roundtable executive steering committee includes Craig Robinson for Steamboat Springs, Kris Middledorf for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Tim Corrigan for Routt County and Jerod Smith for the State Land Board.
A full list of roundtable members and guiding principles can be found on the website RouttCR.org.
For the next four months, roundtable representatives will work together to solidify the plan recommendations through the filter of costs, amount of effort, feasibility, redundancy and level of impact, Mulica explained.
The group that became the eventual roundtable has been meeting for several years to continue the community forum for dialogue and collaboration in the same way that helped manage the Mad Rabbit trails conflict in 2019, Mulica said. The roundtable was able to expand its scope to create the forthcoming plan of collaborative recommendations for action through funding from CPW and Great Outdoors Colorado.
“With demand for outdoor access and trails ever increasing, there is a need to coordinate thoughtful planning and decision-making regarding the myriad of recreational development opportunities that are responding to the increase in demand,” according to the roundtable charter. “These opportunities should be explored in the interest of enhancing enjoyment, mitigating user conflicts, and reducing or eliminating long-term environmental impacts.”
The roundtable in Routt County is one of 14 similar groups across Colorado working as part of the Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships Initiative with funding from CPW and Great Outdoors Colorado.
Jackie Miller, Great Outdoors Colorado executive director, said the overall initiative is meant to develop “coordinated, regionally rooted, statewide strategies for conservation, outdoor recreation and climate resilience that will connect statewide and local efforts, including those by Colorado’s outdoor regional partnerships.”
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.
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