Outfitter must do more to stop trespassers
Steamboat Springs — Men who earn their livelihood operating snowmobile tours in North Routt asked the county not to stifle their ability to make a living Thursday night.
Steamboat Lake Outfitters uses a mile-long private trail that runs through residential property to get customers back and forth from the Routt National Forest.
Homeowners whose backyards adjoin the trail complain the outfitter does not do enough to keep trespassers off the trail.
The county brought neighbors’ complaints before the County Planning Commission Thursday.
Chad Bedell, a partner in the company, told county planning commissioners his business is fighting a losing battle.
“No matter what we try to do to placate some of the neighbors, they’re going to complain,” Bedell said. “That’s the sad fact of the matter.”
The Planning Commission agreed.
The commission had the option to change or revoke the permit that outlines when and how Steamboat Lake Outfitters can operate snowmobile tours and use the private trail.
It decided trespassers were not enough reason to take away the permit.
“It’s not your fault that people are doing the things they shouldn’t be doing,” County Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.
Neighbors called for more stringent rules on the way Steamboat Lake Outfitters operates its snowmobile tours.
“The amount of sleds on (the private trail) is getting out of hand,” resident Patti Bobonich said.
But more regulations are not always the way to fix regulations that aren’t working, Commissioner Fred Nichols said.
“We have conditioned the heck out of this,” Nichols said in regard to the condition-laden permit.
Instead of tightening restrictions on the company, the commission changed a few existing conditions and added a few rules it thought would minimize complaints and help the outfitter do business better.
“You’re never gonna stop the trespassers completely,” Commissioner Bill Taylor said.
The commission instructed the outfitter to patrol its parking lot and the private road that runs adjacent to the private trail to prevent people who are not guests of Steamboat Lake Outfitters from using the route.
Neighbors are concerned the private access to the national forest is becoming a public trailhead.
Commissioners directed guides to wear some sort of uniform — bright vests and armbands or matching jackets — to identify them on the trail. Guide identification is expected to help distinguish riders who are on the trail without a guide.
“It would be to your advantage to have a clearly defined uniform,” Commissioner Ken Brenner said.
The county requires Steamboat Lake Outfitters guides to accompany all customers who use the private trail on their way to the national forest. Returning snowmobilers do not need guides.
Guides and guests have been spacing their departures from the business 15 minutes apart to cut down on continuous engine noise.
The commission eliminated the 15-minute interval and required guides to lead customers down the trail every hour on the hour. There is no limit on the number of departing snowmobiles as long as a guide accompanies every 10 riders.
The commission did allow Steamboat Lake Outfitters to maintain its regularly scheduled 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. two-hour snowmobile tour departures even though the times did not coincide with the “every hour on the hour” rule.
Steamboat Lake Outfitters recognized there is room for improvement but pointed to its recent efforts to appease homeowners’ concerns.
“We know that we can improve, not only from where we have been, but where we are today,” Manager Terry Nelson said.
The company and its neighbors hope they don’t have to go before the county again anytime soon to sort out their differences.
“We shouldn’t be here twice a year,” Bobonich said.
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