Our View: Don’t kick the can down the Core Trail
Stretching more than 7 miles through Steamboat Springs’ epicenter, the Yampa River Core Trail takes walkers, joggers and cyclists through groves of cottonwoods, by bountiful fishing holes and into cozy places where a family can enjoy a picnic. The trail hasn’t just been a good investment of recreation; it’s driven commerce to the city’s core, saved parking spaces downtown and connected Steamboat in ways that weren’t before possible.
This summer, the city contracted with SGM Engineers to complete design work for extending the Core Trail west of the current pedestrian network. Plans are expected to be complete by spring 2023, and we can’t wait to see them.
As described, the work would extend a sidewalk from the Snow Bowl Steamboat Plaza west to the city-owned Fournier parcel, where the Core Trail would intersect with a shared-use path and run along the Steamboat Springs KOA Holiday campground. After that, the trail would go under U.S. Highway 40 near the Sleepy Bear entrance via a pedestrian underpass.
According to a map from the city, it looks like the underpass would be directly north of KOA, though the sidewalk would extend a bit west to connect Sleepy Bear. Then the trail would shift to a soft surface and run from U.S. 40 north to Routt County Road 42, near the Silver Spur neighborhood.
In July, no construction funding had been identified, and city officials described a strategic expansion plan that would most likely require multiple phases and sources of funding. Moreover, the project would need property owners’ coordination, considerations for wildlife and wetland mitigation and eventual plans to widen U.S. 40, according to the city.
Looking down the road, the neighborhoods that could tie into the Core Trail are enticing.
In addition to Silver Spur, Heritage Park, Steamboat II and the 536-acre Brown Ranch, recently bought by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority with money from an anonymous donor, are only some of the areas that could use core connections. Bringing Brown Ranch into the fold is important because the property sits just outside town limits, and county officials are fully aware what it could mean for local housing, and it will need good connections into the city.
The biking community would certainly welcome an extension project, too. Steamboat markets itself as a bicycle-friendly city, and in many ways, it is. However, there are other mountain communities that have far more miles of paths and trails. Plus, there are still many roads in Steamboat where riding a bike is dodgy, especially on the west side of the city.
Extending the trail out west where the bicycle connectivity leaves residents wanting offers the city and county a chance to build on Routt’s bike-friendly brand. It’s good for health, and it’s good for business. The trail links parks and playgrounds, shopping and restaurants. It’s a wonderful addition, and we’d like to see it extended as far as local leaders can take it.
But elongating the trail will require teamwork. The project will have to extend beyond city limits, and its completion will likely require a partnership between the city and county or even multiple partners.
A recent survey that was part of Routt County’s master planning outreach identified the Core Trail extension as a high priority among residents. That’s because what was once viewed as a purely recreational asset is now being considered a key piece in the county’s public transportation planning.
Having a direct portal tying existing neighborhoods and new developments to the heart of Steamboat will allow residents to live and work here without ever needing to fill up with a tank of gas.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners is paying close attention to all of this, and the Core Trail keeps coming up as the county reworks its master plan. Commissioners are in the early stages of Core Trail discussions, but at this point, they seem supportive of the concept.
Many of the finer details — timing, design and cost — remain question marks, but with so many Routt County residents standing to benefit from an extension, we would like to see city and county leaders commit to taking the Core Trail as far as it will go, and that means pushing to find funding.
The trail is becoming more and more important as development happens, and if you ask any builder, the cost is only going up from here.
At issue: A lot of work must be done before Routt County residents can enjoy an extension of the Yampa River Core Trail.
Our View: The community’s wishes are clear, and city and county leaders should pursue this project with the intention of finishing it as soon as possible.
• Bonnie Stewart, publisher
• Eli Pace, editor
• Ana Gomez, community representative
• Kelly McElfish, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
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