Committee discusses prospects of several new multi-use trails on Rabbit Ears Pass
April 9, 2014
Steamboat Springs — As he pointed Wednesday at a small line on a big map being eyed by 13 people, Aryeh Copa described how an old abandoned highway could take on a new life.
"It’d be your ultimate beginner trail," the trail designer said about the possibility of renovating the fading portion of what used to be U.S. Highway 40 near the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass into an attractive multi-use trail. "It’s truly kids with Strider bikes and grandmas who can ride this trail."
Minutes later, Eric Meyer went up to the same map and pointed to a set of other squiggly lines nearby.
These, he said, could be a series of new downhill biking trails on Rabbit Ears.
The presentations about possible trails and terrain features such as jumps on Rabbit Ears represented one of the final chapters of the trails lodging tax committee’s fast-paced but thorough vetting process.
The committee is helping the city of Steamboat Springs decide how to best spend an estimated $5.1 million in lodging tax money on trail projects throughout the next decade.
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By next week, the group will have graded and discussed in detail all of the 46 projects that could be funded by those tax dollars collected from tourists.
The grading process already has made it clear that trails on Emerald Mountain and projects in the city limits are more feasible in the early years, while the more ambitious projects in areas like Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears still are years away from being ready.
It will be up to the committee and the Steamboat Springs City Council to decide which dirt should get moved first.
That process is slated to begin next month.
"I’m really happy with where we’re at," committee chairman Scott Marr said. "We just have a great team. Everybody here is working toward the same thing, and they’re all on the same page as far as wanting to do things to improve the experience here."
In addition to the seven volunteers on the committee, the meetings are attended by city staff and land managers from the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
While the grading of in-town projects went rather quickly last month, the complexity of the projects on Forest Service and BLM land has spurred more debate and dialogue.
Committee members were excited last week about the prospect of a 20-mile Walton Rim Trail that would serve as another connection between Rabbit Ears Pass and Steamboat Ski Area, but wildlife officials said the scope of the project had the potential to significantly impact wildlife.
And Wednesday, discussions about all the other possible trails on U.S. Forest Service land raised a number of other questions, including whether the agency would be on board with projects that are specific to bicyclists and how all of the new amenities would be maintained.
Forest Service representative Erica Dickerson said the question of who maintains the projects would be a "perpetual question for this process."
The trails committee will meet again at noon April 16 in Centennial Hall to finish its review of the Rabbit Ears projects.
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