Routt County commissioners support Core Trail expansion
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Board of Commissioners agreed to contribute financially to a planned expansion of the Yampa River Core Trail, which would extend the popular bike and pedestrian path to the Silver Spur and Steamboat II neighborhoods.
Officials from the city presented a conceptual plan of the extension to the commissioners during their meeting Tuesday, asking the county to provide approximately $200,000 in matching grant contributions.
This follows years of efforts by the county and city to connect the Core Trail to neighborhoods on the west side of town to the downtown area — a project that is estimated to cost $3 million to $4 million.
Extending the Core Trail was among the top priorities among residents, according to surveys the city conducted to inform its parks and recreation master plan last year.
In 2018, the county contributed about $21,000 to build a concrete trail connecting the downtown area to the Snow Bowl Plaza, according to County Manager Tom Sullivan.
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Ben Beall, the city’s engineer, said the newest plan is very much in its conceptual stages. Key hurdles remain, such as the procurement of easements through private lands that the trail would cut through.
The proposed extension would run from the Snow Bowl Plaza to the KOA campground, where an underpass would take bikers and pedestrians north under U.S. Highway 40. From there, the trail would transition to a gravel path and follow U.S. 40 until it links with an existing trail running from Gossard Parkway to Silver Spur.
If accomplished, Beall projected about 350 residents from the Silver Spur and Steamboat II neighborhoods would benefit from the downtown trail access.
Community surveys conducted by the city showed 76% of residents supported the expansion of the Core Trail to Slate Creek, the area just north of the KOA campground
Beall also has received support from the campground owners, as well as West Steamboat Neighborhoods and the Silver Spur homeowners association.
He does not anticipate any construction on the proposed extension to begin until 2022, but he has been busy trying to secure funding for the project.
He approached the commissioners two days ahead of the deadline for a state grant from Great Outdoors Colorado. The organization invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to fund outdoor-related improvement projects.
The grant, which could provide a maximum of $2 million in funding, requires at least a 25% match. It includes a preliminary application process, part of which determines if a project has enough support from local stakeholders to be maintained in the long term.
“A funding commitment from Routt County would send a significant message that this is a community priority and may lead to additional funders coming on board,” Beall said in a letter sent to the commissioners before Tuesday’s meeting.
Commissioner Doug Monger supported the idea but warned the county should tread with caution when promising money to a project still in its early stages. He feared the county might bite off more than it can chew, as it has done in the past. He alluded to the construction of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport, which happened before his time as a commissioner.
“No roads got done for two years when we built the airport,” he said.
Despite that reservation, he, along with his fellow commissioners, concluded the trail extension is a worthwhile investment.
“This would be a wonderful thing for our residents that live out in Steamboat II and Silver Spur,” said commissioner Tim Corrigan.
Such enthusiasm is what Beall said the project needs to garner the necessary funding. The city set aside $650,000 in its 2019 budget to match grants it may receive for the project in the coming years.
“The potential is exciting,” Beall said after the meeting. “But, it’s only potential until it becomes a project.”
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