Steamboat City Council grants 2A money to Mad Rabbit trails review, other projects

Lindsay Wilkop bikes up Emerald Mountain in 2017. The Lower NPR trail on Emerald Mountain is slated to see improvements funded by Steamboat’s accommodations tax.
Scott Franz/Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council directed staff to continue to fund the U.S. Forest Service’s review of the Mad Rabbit trails proposal, among other projects.

On Tuesday, City Council told staff to allocate accommodations tax dollars to the following projects:

  • $300,000 to construct a paved path under U.S. Highway 40 near Fish Creek, connecting the Yampa River Core Trail to businesses on Pine Grove Road
  • $60,000 to the Mad Rabbit trails project to complete the National Environmental Policy Act review process
  • $30,000 to complete trails on Buffalo Pass
  • $30,000 to widen and change the grade of Robbie’s Cut — Lower NPR on Emerald Mountain.

The ballot language of the 2013 2A question allocates $600,000 each year until 2023 to trails included in the Steamboat Springs Trail Alliance proposal.

Much of the discussion from behind the dais and in public comment addressed the question of funding the NEPA process for the Mad Rabbit Trails.

For four months, the Routt Recreation Roundtable worked through proposed trails in the areas of Mad Creek, Rocky Peak and Rabbit Ears Pass. The group did not come to a consensus on what trails should be built, though Hahns Peak Bears Ears Ranger District Recreation Specialist Kent Foster said good input has come out of the roundtable.

Council member Heather Sloop questioned if the process was going too fast with so much conflict at a preliminary stage. She said she found “much concern, as the person that’s holding the purse, for the city to say go ahead and do this” knowing that the agency’s review could result in a decision as soon as August that would give the trails the go-ahead.

“You’re not going to please everyone in every single corner of this before it gets to NEPA,” Sloop said. “I’m struggling with the fact that we’re getting so much comment on both sides right now, that is this ready for primetime, so to speak?”

Foster told Sloop the U.S. Forest Service had a similar conversation.

“We have had that ‘Do we do it? Do we not do it?’” he said. “We feel like we can do it, and it will make it through, and we can balance the concerns.”

Council President Pro-Tem Kathi Meyer said for her, the question of the evening was whether or not the city allocates $60,000 to answer the question of whether the city builds one, some or all of the trails proposed in the Mad Rabbit project.

“I don’t know the outcome, but until you go through the process, it may very well be that the rest of the money may not go, right now, (to) trails that are proposed,” she said. “So the question really is, ‘Are we, as a council, ready to spend $60,000 to get an answer to that question?’ Because there’s a lot of work left to be done.”

Public comment came from both sides — those who wanted to see the Mad Rabbit NEPA review funded Tuesday and those who didn’t.

Ultimately, the council decided to fund the proposal in line with the 2A Trails Accommodations Tax Committee recommendation. Council member Sonja Macys was absent from the meeting.

Foster said the Forest Service expects to have another iteration of the Mad Rabbit proposal before the public in June, and more opportunities for public comment on the proposal after that.

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

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