Steamboat hoping to form steering committee to protect the last of its mineral hot springs
Despite Steamboat Springs’ namesake being born from its historic mineral springs, and the city’s springs being a unique asset, setting it apart from other ski towns, the city is looking to do more than it has in the past to protect its sets of springs that exist around the city.
According to an informational brochure from Yampatika and The Tread of Pioneers Museum, Steamboat used to have more than 150 hot springs within a two-mile radius of downtown. As the city has developed, it has lost all but 12 of them, including its namesake Steamboat Spring, which was formerly a geyser shooting 14 feet up into the air before it was lost to the railroad system.
To better protect the springs around the city, Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation commission recently recommended the city implement a steering committee of volunteer residents to ensure the last remaining springs stay protected.
“We wanted to be able to send a message to say we support this, and we think this is a good idea to form a committee to study it for the long-term,” said Sam Rush, interim executive director of Yampatika. “The more that we study it, we will evolve with appreciating what it is as a resource and really understand it more.”
Rush said the committee does not see a specific end goal, but federal protection — which the sulphur cave under Howelsen Hill recently received — could be a sure-fire way to protect the springs from future development.
“These things are national natural landmarks because of these specific designations that need to be further studied and embraced,” Rush said. “We want them protected and studied for conservation.”
Lexi Stine, Yampatika director of adult programs, said protecting the springs is vital to protecting the community’s character, because the springs were with the city before construction and human activity.
“If you don’t focus on studying and thinking about the springs themselves, its very easy for them to be pushed out when it comes to development in the community,” Stine said. “It’s just really easy for us to kind of push those things aside if there isn’t someone or a team of people that’s studying them and making sure they’re being thought of.”
Stine said lower snowfall, higher temperatures and other side effects of global warming could also degrade the springs, which is why collecting data and recognizing tends as they come is vital.
“If we had 10 years worth of data behind us now, we might be able to see trends in temperatures and snow melt,” Stine said. “Without the concerted effort to make sure we get that kind of data, there will never be any correlation that you can draw.”
Dagny McKinley, a Steamboat resident who wrote a book on the city’s historic springs, said the springs provide physical and mental benefits that should be valued.
“There is so much about these that is precious and potentially beneficial for us as humans, that I feel like it would feel be really sad to see anything happen to our springs,” McKinley said.
As for who could serve on the steering committee, Rush encourages anyone interested to join but said serving could particularly appeal to new residents looking for a way to understand more of Steamboat’s history.
Those interested in the committee should contact the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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