Yampa River Core Trail extension not a top priority of new lodging tax steering committee | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa River Core Trail extension not a top priority of new lodging tax steering committee

Scott Franz

Matt Spady bikes on the Yampa River Core Trail with his dog Kouli at his side. After wrestling with the decision Wednesday, the trails lodging tax committee decided the extension of the trail to the south is not a top priority.

— The city's new lodging tax committee for trails on Wednesday decided the proposed extension of the Yampa River Core Trail south to the Legacy Ranch isn't one of its top priorities.

The committee also figured the project, with an estimated $3.5 million price tag, is too expensive to receive a significant backing of the city's lodging tax.

"We all feel it's a very important project," committee member Harry Martin said. "But it's a lot of money. Unfortunately, the project is so expensive, it doesn't make sense to use the whole budget on something like it."

After using a new scorecard to rank the project, the lodging tax committee voted, 5-1, to recommend to the Steamboat Springs City Council that the possible extension of the hyper-popular trail should receive $50,000 per year from the lodging tax for four years.

It's a contribution that would amount to about 6 percent of the project's estimated cost.

The recommendation will leave the City Council with a decision to make as to whether the city should spend from its own budget to help secure a big grant for the trail extension.

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The new lodging tax committee was under the gun this week to make a recommendation because the city has until March 4 to submit a possible application for a $1 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant to help make the extension a reality.

Committee members said the time crunch made the decision more difficult.

"It was a very difficult process because we couldn't look at it in the big picture and compare it" to all of the other projects, committee member Jon Wade said. "It was challenging, but I thought (city) staff was very helpful in getting us through a good process and arriving at a consensus."

The Core Trail is one of 46 projects on which the city can spend an estimated $5.1 million in lodging tax dollars in the next decade.

Wade wanted the group to commit a little more funding to the Core Trail project.

It was ranked on a number of factors ranging from its shovel readiness to its feasibility.

The committee came to the conclusion that to match the GOCO grant, the city would need to use half of the lodging tax dollars it has available for trails, and it couldn't meet the grant requirements to pay it off in three years.

"If we had $10 million, I think it would be a different story," Wade said.

If the City Council accepts the committee's recommendation and still wants to fund the project, the city would have to find about $2.3 million in matching funds from its own budget or other funding sources.

The council is scheduled to discuss the project Tuesday.

The last time they discussed it, council members offered mixed views about whether they would like to see the lodging tax support it.

"It wraps up the money for too long for what this proposal was about," council member Kenny Reisman said, referring to the Trails Alliance plan.

But Tony Connell said the extension fits well into what voters approved in November when they embraced Referendum 2A.

The council voted Nov. 19 to have the city spend $50,000 on the planning for the Core Trail project.

Whether it gets extended, the trail remains one of Steamboat's most popular amenities.

The most recent summer visitor survey from the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association showed 28 percent of visitors used the amenity this summer.

Fish Creek Falls was the most popular attraction, being visited by 40 percent of visitors surveyed.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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