Spoke Talk: Bringing back trail positivity
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
I think we can all agree that summer has come on fast this year. The county roads and singletracks are abuzz, some already shrouded in clouds of moon dust as riders pass through.
When I see other trail users on Emerald Mountain, there are ear-to-ear smiles, an exchange of hellos, the occasional fist-bump when you cross paths with a friend. This is generally a really positive place to be, out in the woods. It’s time to recognize the great things our growing trail network does for locals and visitors.
Our trail system has seen dramatic changes over the past decade. It has grown physically in terms of mileage and acreage, been enjoyed by an increasing number of locals and visitors, and welcomed a diversifying usership. It’s not uncommon to hear friends complain, “There are too many people on these trails now,” or “This was better before the secret got out.”
This is an impact of more people enjoying these beautiful open spaces and natural areas in Routt County (and if you don’t agree that more people having access to the outdoors is a good thing, we need to have a different conversation). In order to maintain the quality of experience out there, we need to continue to improve and expand our trail system.
I’ve been sitting in on a lot of Steamboat Springs City Council and 2A Trails Committee meetings these days, and I have to tell you, it’s time to bring some positivity back. I’m hearing a lack of education on the part of city officials, some of whom purport that we are “sitting on wasted money” or that “we’ll never be able to spend all the money by the time it sunsets.” We are now eight years into a 10-year tax allocation to grow and improve the trail system, and a lot has been accomplished with some backbreaking work.
We can’t forget where we’ve come from, especially as we look to the next projected phase on Rabbit Ears. Take a look back: Morning Gloria, Spring Roll, Wild Rose, Soda Mountain, Flash of Gold, NPR, Buffalo Billy’s; the Ridge Trailhead structure and parking; several Yampa River Core Trail plus downtown crossings and connectors. These trails and amenities were funded through the 2A lodging tax and have dramatically improved the local trail network for all users, getting people out in the woods on foot, bike and horseback, and allowing them to do that on a more diverse trail network with more options for access and egress.
City officials who publicly proclaim, “No one supports the 2A trail project anymore,” do so in the face of over 71% of local voters who approved this funding allocation for trail development. These are spaces in the local outdoors where people are having incredible experiences. They’re bonding with family members. Pushing their skill level. Enjoying a moment to themselves. Connecting with the natural environment. Becoming stewards. These are also the trails that provide one of the many reasons why so many people want to come here and experience Steamboat.
Summer is a fantastic time of year. People tend to agree when I suggest we hold our next meeting out on the trail (it increases the creative conversational flow). We have plenty of opportunities for you to contribute to this growing network of trails by volunteering, joining us as a member, donating a used bike to the Bike Match program and more. I hope to run into all of you in the woods this summer, and we can fist-bump and remember why we’re all out here to begin with.
Laraine Martin is executive director of Routt County Riders.
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