Steamboat Springs secures easement for expansion of Yampa River Core Trail south

A man rides his bicycle down the Yampa River Core Trail.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Routt County commissioners approved planning changes for Snow Country Nursery on Tuesday, Nov. 29, creating an easement for future expansion of the Yampa River Core Trail toward Legacy Ranch south of Steamboat.

Currently, the core trail ends at city limits, but the city’s intention has been to expand it farther south, which will require getting access from landowners. After nearly a year of negotiation, the trail easement will pass along the Yampa River through the property.

“Nobody can expect construction anytime soon, but we are really excited because this is a piece of the puzzle we have been trying to put together for a long time,” said Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Bock, who worked to negotiate the easement.

The core trail is one of the more beloved parts of Steamboat among residents, and its expansion has repeatedly been held up as a top priority for locals.

Craig Robinson, Steamboat’s Parks, Open Space and Trails manager, said the city’s main focus has been to extend the core trail west, with the eventual plan to have it continue across the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch and connect to neighborhoods west of town.

“We don’t have a timeline for going to Legacy Ranch, which is the destination that is in all of our master plans,” Robinson said. “This was an opportunity where Snow Country was going through the county (planning) process, and with that, there was an opportunity to acquire the easement to start heading that direction.”

Changes approved by commissioners on Tuesday include a lot line adjustment, floodplain development agreement and a PUD or planned unit development agreement.

The parcels involved, which are just south of Steamboat off U.S. Highway 40, have been used for firewood processing, residential use, commercial hot-air ballooning and the landscape nursery, among others. Snow Country Nursery obtained a permit to operate on the property in 2011, and nursery owner Mitch Clark bought the property in 2020.

But the sticking point with Clark was that he didn’t want the core trail to dead-end on his southern property line. The trail already dead-ends on his northern property line, which has become an undesirable gathering spot for some.

“We didn’t want to extend that issue with the turnaround to our southern property line,” said Walter Magill of Four Points Surveying and Engineering, which has worked with Clark on the planning application.

Bock said part of the agreement restricts the city from building on this easement until there are larger plans to build the trail farther south onto property owned by the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, though an easement across that property hasn’t been obtained yet.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan commended Clark for working through this process and being flexible to come up with an option that worked for everybody including the city.

“The core trail is a priority for the community so I think it’s great that you all were able to identify an amendable solution for everyone to continue that trail at some point,” said Commissioner Beth Melton.

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