TJ Thrasher: City Council consideration of Mad Rabbit is premature
In the coming days, Steamboat Springs City Council will be considering approval of a measure to appropriate funding for the Mad Rabbit trails project as required under the National Environmental Policy Act — NEPA. While I support an environmental analysis of any new development in the Yampa Valley, I believe an expenditure of funds for Mad Rabbit is premature at this point.
For starters, to date, there is no officially recognized Mad Rabbit project. The U.S. Forest Service, in consultation with a variety of Steamboat constituents, has been working through a host of options for Mad Rabbit in an effort to develop a proposal that can achieve agreement among user groups. While progress is being made, there is no consensus as of yet and thus, no actual project proposal for evaluation.
Without a specific set of trails to evaluate, it remains unclear how an environmental analysis could be meaningfully conducted. Until the Forest Service puts forward a specific plan for consideration and until that plan has been presented to the public for consideration and comment, there is simply no way to address specific concerns. From what we know so far, concerns have been far reaching and include issues like: traffic and parking needs, impacts of displaced wildlife to surrounding agriculture operations, impacts to wildlife populations, erosion control, cumulative impacts, etc.
While I commend the city for recognizing the need to thoroughly vet new trail developments, approving a spending measure for an unknown project begs questions of fiscal responsibility. Environmental analysis varies greatly under NEPA and forecasting the actual cost without having a clear picture of the actual project is impossible. This is important because the actual cost to taxpayers could vary by many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I, and many others in the community, believe that an expenditure of 2A revenues for NEPA is premature at this point. We request that City Council reserve its vote until an official proposal is presented to the city, vetted by the residents of the Yampa Valley and until we have a clear idea of the investment that we would be making.
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