Group extends survey deadline

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— The group trying to save Emerald Mountain from development did not get much response from a survey they sent out in late May, so they're extending the deadline for accepting the surveys.

"That's not to say that we can't do something with the (surveys) we have, but there would be that much more participation if everyone turned their forms in," said Ben Beall, chairman of the Emerald Mountain Partnership.

The mountain is connected to the city-owned Howelsen Hill Ski Area and is home to elk and other wildlife. It also serves as a lease area for local ranchers who run cattle on parts of the 6,400-acre parcel.

Among other things, the survey wants to know how much the public would be willing to tax themselves in order to preserve Emerald Mountain, with uses for recreation, wildlife and ranching.

A polling company hired by the partnership sent out 1,500 surveys to random residents living in Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District, which surrounds the city.

Only 200 people responded.

Polling experts told the Partnership that 300 surveys would be enough to make an "accurate statistical analysis."

The original deadline to turn in the surveys was June 10, but the partnership will continue to accept the surveys until the end of June.

"Hopefully they haven't thrown away the surveys," Beall said optimistically.

"It's a big portion of land we're talking about 6,400 acres," said County Commissioner Doug Monger who also sits on the partnership board.

"We need the pro and con."

Responses to the survey would help shape any ballot question asking the voters to tax themselves to preserve Emerald Mountain.

The partnership is looking at forming a special district that would encompass the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District. The Emerald Mountain parcel is currently held in "stewardship trust" by the partnership until 2005. The land is actually owned by the State Land Board and is worth $17 million. But the trust allows the partnership to try and find a way to sell the land or save it by the year 2005.

The money would then be used by the State Land Board, which is constitutionally required to manage its lands for the funding of public schools.

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