Steamboat exploring expansion of connector trails in mountain area using 2A money

Yampa River Core Trail. l Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

The Steamboat Springs Accommodations Tax Trails Committee is exploring building connector trails from hotels and condominiums in the Walton Creek Road area, commonly known as Condo Land, to the Yampa River Core Trail.

The tax, which the lodging industry pays, was originally passed by voters in 1986 to fund “development of improvements and amenities in Steamboat Springs, which will promote tourism and enhance the vitality of Steamboat Springs as a (premier) destination resort.” And then in 2013, voters approved a 10-year reallocation of the funds to build trails around town and help finance improvements along Yampa Street. The tax is often referred to as the “2A tax” because of its placement on the ballot.

Pete Wither, chair of the committee, said the proposed connectors will help fulfill the fund’s mission of improving tourism in the city because most visitors stay in hotels or short-term rentals in that area of town.

“The goal of the 2A Committee is to promote Steamboat trails to increase lodging use, so we’ve been trying to figure out a way to get the Core Trail out there to where a lot of the lodging is located,” Wither said. “The Core Trail is obviously one of the easiest trails in town, so most people can ride it without any issue at all.”

At their budget retreat Tuesday, Steamboat Springs City Council members will discuss the project and how much, if any, funding they would like to dedicate to it. Tuesday’s retreat is a work session, so council will not vote to allocate any money.

Winnie DelliQuadri, Steamboat special projects/intergovernmental services manager, said the city does not have a specific cost estimate for the planning and design portion of the project, but numbers will be discussed with council Tuesday.

Scott Marr, vice chair of the committee, said the connectors, which will function more like sidewalks than trails, will be beneficial to tourists and locals because the Core Trail allows residents on the west and mountain sides of town to visit the downtown area without needing a car.

“These are funds that are provided by a tourism infrastructure tax, and our No. 1 priority is using those funds to enhance tourism,” Marr said. “That is a heavily utilized area by our tourists, and the city thought some safety improvements in our sidewalk areas would enhance those areas.”

While they both believed the project is beneficial, Marr and Wither said the Core Trail connection is a back seat project to the city’s No. 1 priority — the Mad Rabbit Trails proposal, which would build multiuse trails in the areas of Mad Creek, Rocky Peak and Rabbit Ears Pass in Routt National Forest.

“The overall goal has been to get some trails up there on Rabbit Ears,” Wither said. “We don’t know where they’re going to be or what it’s going to be, but we do think that, with the access from U.S. Highway 40, it will hopefully take some of the pressure off of the Buffalo Pass Dry Lake parking lot.”

The U.S. Forest Service is currently in the process of deciding how many of the proposed trails are in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, meaning they do not have a significant negative impact on the plants and wildlife surrounding them.

Brendan Kelly, district Forest Service recreation program manager, said the Forest Service has estimated the NEPA process will be completed in the winter or spring months of 2022.

“To me, those trails, as far as being a benefit to tourism, are much more important than these sidewalk connectors,” Marr said.

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