Steamboat Chamber asks for help from city, county for destination management master plan
The Steamboat Springs Chamber has asked the city of Steamboat and Routt County for funding and support to design a countywide master plan outlining the future of destination management.
At a joint city-county meeting Monday, Jan. 31, Chamber CEO Kara Stoller did not list a specific price tag or commitment for the project but said the chamber is asking for a consultant to take 10 to 12 months to study the county and assess its needs for destination management.
Though she did not have an exact cost, the city of Jackson, Wyoming, completed a similar project and spent about $200,000, which Stoller estimated would be similar to Routt County’s needs.
Stoller defined destination management as “the intersection of social, economic and environmental stewardship,” which she and other presenters said has become desperately needed since the COVID-19 pandemic brought more visitors and permanent residents to Routt County to enjoy its outdoor access.
Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Executive Director Michelle Stewart, who presented alongside Stoller and Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Director of Sustainability Sarah Jones, said destination management would primarily be used to mitigate the impacts to the Yampa River, Medicine Bowe-Routt National Forest and other outdoor hot spots in the area.
These natural features that make Routt County an appealing destination, Stewart said, have been “loved to death.”
“What we have is an opportunity to look ahead to conditions where there is an increased use and visitation to places without preparedness and a plan to manage that,” Stewart said. “How can we learn from that and work on managing our areas?“
Stewart said climate change and its negative impacts have already taken a toll on the river and forests, which is why teaching about sustainability is crucial for the area.
“It’s giving visitors, second-home owners and those individuals who have come to our area in the last few years the opportunity to be sustainable,” Stewart said. “We really want to make sure that tourism continues to add value while lessening environmental impacts.”
Steamboat Springs gave the chamber $700,000 in its 2022 budget, with 75% of that going towards destination management measures, such as leave-no-trace signs, know-before-you-go outdoor campaigns and reminders to not litter the Yampa River.
Because the city already gave the chamber money, some City Council members asked how funding for this study would differentiate from the $700,000. In response, Stoller said that money has to go to current actions, while future funding would specifically go to support the study.
“The city has done a great job of putting messages out about how we want to care for our river,” Stoller said. “The goal through a master plan, such as this, would be to get us all speaking the same language.”
The three presenters also told council members and county commissioners that they were asking for the funding and initiative to come from government bodies — rather than private entities — for a reason.
“We want this to be neutral, and if it’s coming from the chamber, or it looks like it came from Ski Corp, it could be seen as a little more subjective,” Jones said.
Commissioners said they were interested in further exploring the idea but felt they did not have enough information Monday to fully commit any resources.
“I’m still not quite clear exactly what we’re trying to achieve here,” said Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan. “Generally, the answer to the question is I’m supportive of taking a look at this, but the devil is in the details.”
Commissioners Tim Redmond and Beth Melton felt similarly, and Redmond suggested inviting state and federal partners to the discussion, as much of the destination area is on land that they manage.
“I’m just wondering if we’re missing a couple people at the table,” Redmond said.
Commissioners agreed to continue the discussion at future work sessions, with Stoller present to answer questions. Council President Robin Crossan said the city would do the same.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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