I would like to write this letter in response to the Dec. 20 article in the Steamboat Today "Snowmobilers decry changes to map."
As a member of the Routt Winter Task Force and representative of the nonmotorized advocates The Friends of the Routt Backcountry, I feel that it is important for the community to know the history of this decision. This group has been meeting for four years with the Forest Service to discuss the user conflict situation in all of these areas, referred to in the article.
At the beginning of these sessions, Kim Vogel, our district ranger, made it clear to us that if we could not come up with a decision on boundaries and use, then she would make the decision for us.
The entire winter of 2000-01 was spent on issues revolving around Buffalo Pass. A group of hybrid users were brought into the discussion at the request of the snowmobilers, our mission statement was changed to encompass the hybrid's needs and Blue Sky West attended sessions. The hybrid's needs are trails for snowmobile access, which restricted the snowmobiles to roads, leaving untracked powder for them to ski in. Blue Sky West is also in agreement with this ruling. The snowmobilers' response was to adamantly resist any change or restrictions and they continually stonewalled the process.
The winter of 2001-02 was spent in discussing the ski area buffer zone, or Toutes area. There were field trips to the site and many hours spent discussing the issues, looking at maps and drawing lines that would geographically work. Once again, the snowmobilers continued to stonewall the process, refusing to agree to any new limitations.
So it should not have come as a surprise to them, considering that Kim Vogel made it clear that a decision would be made for all of us, if consensus were not reached.
The group has been working now for years to make the boundaries work; however, the motorized trespasses have continued to grow. Designation of these boundaries to an enforceable state is long overdue. Travel management plans are vital with the increased amount of popularity of backcountry recreation of all types.
I would also disagree with George Kostiuk's statement that we are a "minority group of nonmotorized users." Our fund-raiser, the Backcountry Ball, was packed to capacity last week. Our membership is at more than 200 and growing locally and we represent skiers, snowshoers and other nonmotorized users from all over the country. Our group is a chapter of the Colorado Backcountry Skiers Alliance and a grass-roots member of the national group Winter Wildlands Alliance. Please feel free to visit our Web sites.
Investing in the Character of the Community
What can the city of Steamboat Springs and the Department of Parks and Recreation be thinking? A snowmobile race at Howelsen Hill Rodeo Grounds in the heart of Steamboat Springs? The City Council waved the noise ordinance and the Parks and Recreation Department supported the event on the grounds that it would be a revenue generator for downtown Steamboat. I believe the Hell's Angels convention was supposed to be a revenue generator and add to the character of Steamboat. I can think of a lot of events that would be revenue generators, but due to a sense of community and a responsibility to protect our quality of life, would, or should, never be considered by our city government.
Another question is, can the City Council arbitrarily override a public safety ordinances, that by its action will adversely affect thousands of citizens? The possible impact of this type of policy is downright scary.
Here is an event that will at best create a one-time pop in revenues for a select group of businesses but create nothing lasting or positive for the community at large. For two days we will have unacceptable noise pollution and air pollution, and maybe if we are lucky, many of the visiting snowmobilers will decide that Steamboat would be a great place to come back to with their snow machines. We are already dealing with tremendous problems related to overuse and conflict of use in our surrounding national forests related to winter motorized recreation.
The City Council and the Department of Recreation have ignored the two highest priorities established in the community survey: open space and trails. A Colorado state survey done by the State Trails Committee and Trails Program in the state Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation identified that five out of the top eight recreational activities listed by respondents involved nonmotorized trail use, and 78 percent of the people listed hiking and walking on trails as their highest priority. Mountain resort communities and urban communities, throughout Colorado and North America, have figured out that building trails not only enhances the quality of life of the people who live in the community but are powerful economic generators.
Due to budget constraints, the city has been unable to contribute additional funds to the grooming of Nordic trails at Howelsen Hill or the development or improvement of existing community recreational trails, but they are able to fund this type of questionable event that does nothing to improve our quality of life or create a long-term, ongoing, economic benefit.
We all need to spend more time deciding what the character of our community should be and start investing in that vision. If it is snowmobile races and Triple Crown events, then in my opinion we are heading down the wrong path.
Not the first time
Motorized events have taken place at and around Howelsen Hill during the past half century. When I moved to Steamboat Springs in 1964 there was a new quarter-mile oval stock-car track where the ice rink is now. This replaced racing on the half-mile horse track that took place in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The races normally took place on Saturday nights throughout summer months. Snowmobile races were also held both on the horse track and the stock-car track for at least three winters.
There was also a cross country race held in 1970 that used most of Howelsen and Emerald Mountain. Motorcycle snowcross was held during Winter Carnival for at least three years, the last being during the 1983 season. These are the events I can remember; there may have been more. I am not involved in any of the current events but was involved in most of the ones held in the past. My point being, I believe snowmobile racing at Howelsen Hill should take place.
I felt dismayed this morning after reading the Today article about City Council's approval of the snowmobile races to take place at Howelsen Hill on Dec. 28 and 29. It is appalling this event was approved only two weeks prior to its occurrence. I have seen absolutely no publicity whatsoever that it was even going to be considered. Perhaps I just overlooked something, but it should have been a front-page story. I think special efforts should have been made by the city to inform the public and provide opportunities to comment well in advance of an event of this magnitude.
I am adamantly opposed to having this snowmobile event at Howelsen Hill. I feel it is totally inappropriate in location, timing and duration. My primary objection is the noise and air pollution it would create. I have no doubt it would be distressing to residents of Old Town and to visitors who have come to appreciate the ambiance of Steamboat Springs during one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year.
I remember well how loud and disturbing the previous snowmobile event was in the spring of 1998. I witnessed a very objectionable noise level both walking around town and from my home in Old Town. There are already many complaints about noisy events around town. Why add another one that would obviously be objectionable to a large numbers of people?
Moreover, the event would seriously conflict with traditional and historical nonmotorized uses at Howelsen Hill. Ski, snowshoe and other quiet-use activities will be curtailed during the event. There would be very few individuals, if any, who enjoy these sports who would be willing to subject themselves to the noise and fumes of the snowmobile races. I suggest it will also adversely impact use of our venerable core trail system.
While I agree with the desire for economic stimulus. However, holding snowmobile races at Howelsen Hill during the week of Christmas is neither the time nor place for it. In fact, I would predict the opposite effect with visitors telling friends about the disturbance they experienced and probably having second thoughts about return visits to Steamboat Springs.
The two City Council members who opposed the event are to be commended. I sincerely hope the other council members reconsider their positions on the approval and/or location of the snowmobile races at Howelsen Hill. There are broader implications, precedents and negative impacts that deserve more consideration and public involvement than it has apparently been given. If the event cannot be stopped at this time, I strongly suggest that it be moved to another location outside of the downtown area (perhaps the airport).
I would like to encourage other residents and visitors to come forward and let the City Council know how they feel about this important issue. It is time we think how it would affect of the quality of life in our peaceful, wonderful town.
A better plan
I voted for the new judicial facility at the present courthouse location, as proposed, on Nov. 5. In retrospect, however, several things about that proposal were vaguely troublesome -- but not enough so to overcome a civic feeling that we needed to voluntarily build a facility or face a court order to do so.
Troublesome aspects of the first proposal were:
n Inefficient high-rise parking structure. Cost per space was exorbitant for the relatively few spaces gained. Also, it would set a precedent for the city to build similar eyesores (an idea already floated by DDA's movers and shakers -- and at least one councilman) in pursuit of more downtown tourist parking and growth stimulation.
n Size seemed too large. This was no doubt based on long-term projections and the prevailing grow-or-die mindset that continued, unrestrained growth is desirable and/or inevitable. City Council majority and county commissioners passed a joint resolution that opposed the state growth control referendum about three years ago, if you recall. (The platitude they used to justify this was "we are capable of managing our own growth locally." They will give some lip service to growth control because it is generally popular, but don't expect anything tangible.)
It seems that we should build to a conservative 10-year projection level, with enough land and provision in architectural plans for adding parking spaces, wings or upper levels to meet as-needed space demands.
n Location in downtown Steamboat Springs. A recent letter in the Pilot & Today extolled the virtues of having the judicial facilities at the existing courthouse location. I submit that adjacent to the jail is much more practical in all respects: cost; safety in moving prisoners; ample ground-level parking; and less congestion in Old Town. A cafeteria in the new structure would serve nicely for judges, attorneys, etc., without the need to go trooping into town for lunch, etc.
I understand that land near the jail site is already being considered. This situation reminds some of us old-timers of the new school proposal several years ago, where the school planners' "wish list" totaled $42 million and was soundly defeated. On a practical level of half that it later passed handily. This seems to be the scenario shaping up for the new judicial facility, and I would go out on a limb to predict its approval by us tax-strapped voters.
Omar M. Campbell