Our View: Rethinking Steamboat’s signature city park | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Rethinking Steamboat’s signature city park

At issue: City says Howelsen Hill is in need of spendy updates Our view: Howelsen Hill can’t be everything to everyone Editorial Board

• Jim Morgan, interim publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

The city of Steamboat Springs is well aware that the community has a love affair with Howelsen Hill. The community’s signature municipal park represents the genesis our early competitive skiing history, right next door to a rodeo area that validates our claim to being a “cowboy ski town.”

What the city is less certain of, is the taxpayers’ appetite for helping to fund 21st century upgrades and recreational programming.

With that in mind, the Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department in late March mailed out 3,000 questionnaires asking residents and second homeowners to indicate their level of interest in the details of four different, multi-faceted, concepts for updating Howelsen.  Because all four scenarios are conceptual, the community should understand that they are not final development plans.

We urge the 3,000 households that received the surveys respond by the Friday, April 20, deadline to provide city officials as complete a data set as possible. If your passion is tennis or basketball, ski jumping or bucking broncos, this is an opportunity to tell city leaders how you feel.

However, we would encourage city officials and members of the public to consider that Howelsen Hill cannot provide all forms of recreation to all people. And new parks and recreation facilities in a town blessed with unlimited opportunities to play in the great outdoors, spending tens of millions of dollars on updated facilities may not rise to the top of our wish list.

Together, the four conceptual plans described in the survey include varying changes of emphasis at Howelsen. They include the possibility of acting on the rodeo master plan, removing the two western-most softball diamonds to be replaced elsewhere (site uncertain), to build a permanent pavilion that could be used to host concerts or even weddings.

The city stresses that these are conceptual plans meant to gauge community interest. They are not actual development plans, and no decisions have been made. However each of the four concepts are essentially a package with diverse projects lumped together. For example, in Concept D, respondents will be asked their level of support from strong to not at all, or indifference, for relocating the existing tennis and volleyball courts to expand the multi-purpose area in the center of the park, construct an outdoor basketball court next to the relocated tennis courts and upgrade the playground to an adventure pay area.

If all of the projects described in the survey were built, they would cost more than $70 million, not that the city is contemplating taking that on. Examples of one of the least expensive options is building a parking lot at Emerald Mountain Blackmere Trailhead and adding some definition to the entrance for $500,000. Building four-field ball field complex at a new site is estimated to cost $14 million.

The survey asks respondents to identify their top five priorities and displays those options with the estimated amount of new taxes that would be required to make them come to pass. It also asks respondents to indicate their preferred form of increased taxes.

It’s a big ask. But if you care about Howelsen Hill, you’ll get involved.

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