‘Sickening’ amount of vandalism delays trailhead project on Emerald Mountain
Steamboat Springs — Todd Raper was sickened by what he saw Thursday morning when he showed up to continue his work at the Ridge trailhead on the west side of Emerald Mountain.
Overnight, a vandal or vandals had hijacked three pieces of heavy construction equipment at the site and wreaked havoc just days before the improved trailhead was set to open to the public.
The new $40,000 bathroom facility that had just been installed was significantly damaged and moved by a bulldozer that was found still resting against the building.
A skid steer was overturned in the middle of a recently-graded parking lot.
And a track hoe had wiped out a bush that Raper and the construction crews had preserved.
The overall damage at the site was initially estimated to total $80,000 to $100,000.
Raper said keys were not left in the vehicles, and whoever caused the damage appears to have been experienced in driving heavy construction equipment.
“I hope we find whoever did this,” Raper said, as Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies pulled fingerprints and took photos of dusty footprints left on the construction equipment.
Raper said he and the other workers were just two days away from finishing the improvements at the trailhead, which include the bathroom and a much-improved gravel parking lot.
The Ridge trailhead improvement project is a partnership between the city of Steamboat Springs and the Bureau of Land Management.
The project was funded in part by lodging tax dollars voters approved to spend on local trail improvements.
Over the past three years, the city has invested $154,387 in the Ridge trailhead improvements.
The BLM also has invested in the project.
A ribbon-cutting for the improved trailhead was scheduled for Wednesday, but BLM and city officials expect the vandalism will greatly delay the completion of the trailhead project.
“It’s a total bummer,” said Winnie DelliQuadri, the city’s government programs manager. “I think it’s sad. It’s kind of sickening and really unfortunate that this happened.”
If a new bathroom must be ordered for the trailhead, it could take another six to eight weeks to put it in.
“It went from being a highly successful project that was going to be delivered on time to this,” Raper said.
The Ridge trailhead is off of Routt County Road 45 and serves the Ridge and Rotary trails.
Raper, a manager for NEI construction, said he had never seen such intentional vandalism at a job site in his decades in the construction industry.
Pete Wither, who served on the citizens committee that recommended lodging tax dollars be used to improve the trailhead, was cycling in the area Thursday morning and saw the damage.
“It’s completely senseless,” Wither said. “This is ridiculous. It’s not a good thing for anybody. I hope the truth will come out, and we find who did this.”
Anyone with information about the vandalism may anonymously call Routt County Crime Stoppers at 970-870-6226.
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