Steamboat considers committee to protect mineral springs
Steamboat Springs will create a steering committee to make recommendations to City Council and parks and recreation commission on how to better learn about and protect the city’s natural mineral springs, which are found in several locations throughout the city.
“We have not been phenomenal in protection of our springs and our open spaces,” Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby told parks and recreation commissioners at a Thursday, Jan. 13, meeting. “It would be really nice to get the springs that our city is named after up to par.”
Candice Bannister, executive director with The Tread of Pioneers Museum, and Dagny McKinley, a longtime Steamboat resident and author who has extensively researched the city’s mineral springs, brought the idea to the city to raise the level of awareness of the fragile nature of the springs network, create protections, celebrate the diversity of these geologic wonders and help the city create policies and procedures that can help protect the springs.
“We have this kind of mini Yellowstone in Steamboat, and I think sometimes we might forget about it, because we have so many other amazing things here,” Bannister told commissioners. “It’s one of the only places on Earth like this and has really put Steamboat on the map, as far as the abundance and diversity of our springs.”
Cosby said the steering committee would likely include Bannister, McKinley, two parks and recreation staff members and a parks and recreation commissioner.
Bannister and McKinley are asking the steering committee to look into creating a local historic designation for protection, as they want to raise awareness for these features, as evidenced by the recent national landmark status bestowed on the Sulphur Cave and Spring.
Still, the two wanted to ensure any national status did not prevent residents and visitors from exploring the mineral springs.
“One of our main goals is to continue to have public access of the springs and to have understanding and appreciation for them,” Bannister said. ‘‘At the same time, it’s going to be a hard line, because protection has to be prioritized, as well.“
Bannister and McKinley said development around the springs has likely contributed to their degradation. National protection status would help protect from further harm, they added.
“We know that not only the springs need to be protected, but we need to be looking at all the areas around them and how development could interrupt those water sources,” McKinley said. “Having a formal committee with parks and recreation ensures that preservation measure and protections for the springs are updated for the future.”
Cosby said the steering committee would explore short- and long-term protection, and protection rules could change as time passed and the needs of the city changed.
“Our current needs are learning as much as we can and establishing maintenance,” Cosby said. “Long-term maintenance is making sure that 50 or 100 years from now, these springs are still protected.”
Craig Robinson, Steamboat parks, open space and trails manager, told commissioners that the city would speak with other municipalities and the National Parks Service about best practices protecting mineral springs while still allowing public access.
“One of the things we all realize is we need to better understand how the springs function,” Robinson said. “That’s going to take some study and research.“
Robinson said the city also needs to figure out what they want for the future of the springs and the infrastructure around them.
“‘Are we going for what it looked like in the times before, or are we trying to make it more flexible and functional today?” Robinson said.
All commissioners felt a steering committee was warranted.
City staff will begin having conversations with nonprofit leaders and City Council on how to move forward.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct statements made during Tuesday’s meeting, including the committee’s reasons for bringing the issue before city council, and that the committee hopes to create a local historic designation for protection, not national landmark status.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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