Routt Recreation Roundtable kicks off with 1st meeting post-Mad Rabbit discussion | SteamboatToday.com

Routt Recreation Roundtable kicks off with 1st meeting post-Mad Rabbit discussion

Roundtable kicks off in discussing perceived strengths and weakness in recreation on public land

Jan Willman, front, and Allison Keating, ride horses along the trials on Emerald Mountain in 2015.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After months of discussion about the Mad Rabbit Trails project in Routt National Forest, the Routt Recreation Roundtable is taking on an even bigger project: all recreation within more than 1,000 square miles of public land in Routt County.

The roundtable convened for the first time Monday. Made up of 21 members representing a range of interests, public land managers anticipate using feedback from the roundtable to guide management of federal, state and city-owned public lands.

These members are intended to represent different public land uses and bring the variety of opinions about public land management and recreation within those groups to the roundtable.

“These (land managers) have processes where they’re required to seek public input,” facilitator Matthew Mulica of the Keystone Policy Center told the group. “While getting 1,200 letters is helpful, it’s also helpful to have a group come together that can talk to each other, not in a vacuum of their own but to understand other interests. That’s really the purpose of this roundtable.”

Ideally, this feedback will come in the form of consensus recommendations from the roundtable, though Mulica acknowledged that this will not always happen. In those cases, the purpose of the roundtable is to “capture the range of opinions on issues and recommendations.”

On Monday, the group spent time identifying existing strengths and weaknesses of recreation on Routt public lands and getting to know each other. 

Roundtable representatives agreed on a couple of things. Multiple people, after convening in small groups, said that with growth anticipated to continue in Colorado and Routt County, land managers need to consider how they’ll manage the impacts of more people getting outside and educating visitors about rules and etiquette on public land. Several wanted to see an updated, holistic master plan for recreation in Routt National Forest. 

Another common request was a simple way to track closures on area trails and other information about public land.

“You will get bits and pieces of information about restrictions or how to play safely in certain places, but is there one site where people can go to?” asked Kent Vertrees, who is representing special use permit holders. Among the items people wanted to see included on that site were closures, where grazing sheep are and using technology to get real-time information about parking and area trails.

“Full parking lots — what’s going on at the hot springs?” said Marilyn McCaulley, who represents equestrian users. “Can we get people turned around before they get all the way out to the end?”

Another commonality was attracting visitors who recreate in Routt County’s forests and funding projects to improve recreation.  

“Some would call it brutal marketing. We’ve all seen those bumper stickers from the past. Other people might describe it as sustaining our sales tax base,” said Soren Jesperson, who represents natural resource and environmental advocacy organizations.  “Whatever it is, we’re doing it well. Our promotional marketing of our public lands is a reason that people want to come here.”

Economic and community development representative Sarah Leonard pointed out some unique funding source streams that benefit recreation on public land in grants and accommodations tax revenue which is designated to build new trails. Both Jesperson and Mark Eike, an ex-officio member of the roundtable representing the Colorado Department of Transportation, mentioned finding additional funding to improve land managers’ ability to maintain infrastructure on public land and increase enforcement.

“We can build it, but who is maintaining it? Who is funding it to maintain it?” Eike said. “That always seems to be an article that’s forgotten and then it gets dropped on an agency to do it, and they have no more people and no more money and they’re expected to maintain it. Overall, the whole system starts to degrade because of that.”

Roundtable organizers plan to create a website which will contain meeting materials, minutes and information about the Routt Recreation Roundtable. Meetings are open to the public, though there is not a planned comment period within the meetings. The next meeting will be 3 to 5 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Routt County Courthouse.

The city of Steamboat Springs funded the continuation of the roundtable under facilitation from the Keystone Policy Center. As the roundtable continues, resident Laura Sankey will act as a neutral facilitator.

As for the Mad Rabbit project, the public comment period on the latest version of the proposal closed earlier this month. In July, the Forest Service told Steamboat Pilot & Today that it planned to incorporate public feedback into a draft proposal which will undergo National Environmental Policy Act review later this year. The agency will accept more public comment when the draft proposal is released.

User group representatives on the Routt Recreation Roundtable

  • Adaptive users: Julie Taulman, Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports
  • Economic and community development: Sarah Leonard, Steamboat Springs Chamber
  • Equestrian: Marilyn McCaulley
  • Hunting and fishing: Ed Watson, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Northwest Colorado Chapter 17
  • Mountain biking: Craig Frithsen, Routt County Riders
  • Natural resource and environmental advocacy: Soren Jesperson The Wilderness Society
  • Quiet use and hiking: Christina Harmon, Great Old Broads For Wilderness
  • Ranching and farming: Tim Borden
  • Recreational boating: John Saunders
  • Road biking: Jon Schafer
  • Special use permit holder: Kent Vertrees, Steamboat Powdercats
  • Summer motorized use: Jason Weber, Mountain Trails Axxess
  • Trail running: Deb Freeman
  • Wildlife conservation: Larry Desjardin, Keep Routt Wild
  • Winter motorized use: Ed Calhoun, Routt Powder Riders
  • Winter nonmotorized use: Thomas Scilacci
  • At large: Diane Brower
  • At large: Jon Nolting, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club
  • At large: Katie Linquist, community Of Steamboat Springs
  • At large: Mark Wertheimer, South Routt Recreation Association, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps
  • At large: TJ Thrasher

Ex-officio roundtable members             

  • Mark Eike, Colorado Department of Transportation
  • Jim Schneider, Steamboat Resort

Steering committee  

  • Gary Keeling, Bureau of Land Management
  • Angela Cosby, city of Steamboat
  • Kris Middledorf, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Dan Weinheimer, Routt County
  • Jerod Smith, Colorado State Land Board
  • Kent Foster, U.S. Forest Service

Facilitators              

  • Matthew Mulica, Keystone Policy Center
  • Laura Sankey

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


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