Tuesday, February 5, 2002
Steamboat Springs The baseball fields at city-owned Emerald Park are proving to be a hotbed of controversy. Usage issues at the field, which could become part of a deal with national sports tournament organizer Triple Crown Sports, recently prompted the director of the local Little League to quit, while access issues to the park have local residents up in arms. The City Council dealt with the latter of those two issues Tuesday night but might have to deal with the former as it enters negotiations with the softball and baseball organizer.
The council pledged Tuesday to resolve a problem residents who live on Pamela Lane next to the fields at Emerald Park have been dealing with for almost a decade. The route to the parking lot for the fields runs right through a small residential neighborhood, whose residents say traffic and safety problems are becoming unbearable.
"We're in an unacceptable situation," said Ed Patalik, a resident on Pamela Lane.
Speed bumps the city put in have not stopped motorists from flying through the neighborhood, some of whom use the bumps to "catch air" or drive into people's yards to avoid them, residents said.
Residents were unhappy with a proposed city plan to potentially swing the current road around the backs of the homes nearest the river. They said it would pave over what little backyards they have and hurt the area's natural beauty.
All of the council members present concluded the city needs to solve this problem once and for all in a way that satisfies residents. They told the residents they would make sure the city doesn't simply put a "Band-Aid" on the problem.
The solution, however, could be tricky. For one thing, a new access road from U.S. 40 would cause the city to cross the railroad tracks, which means it would have to go through a public process that could last 18 to 24 months. The city would also have to abandon the current access route because two railroad crossings cannot be so close together.
On top of that, the ownership of the road the city may try to use, located on the south side of the old Ski Town Inn, is still in question. City Attorney Tony Lettunich said he will attempt to resolve that issue.
The most significant roadblock, however, may be the cost of the solution.
"That is where we need to go," said Council President Pro Tem Paul Strong. "The question is, 'How do we get there?'"
City officials estimate a new route south of the current one could cost more than $2 million, which is about two-thirds of the city's best-case-scenario capital projects budget next year. Former City Councilman Jim Engelken, who lives on Pamela Lane, said the city might be better off using that $2 million to build new ball fields somewhere else.
Council members said they would conduct their next meeting about access to Emerald Park on site with the residents.
Chamber Resort Association Executive Director Sandy Evans-Hall thanked the council for separating the issues of access and usage.
Access to the park and usage of the park may be closely connected, however, according to some Pamela Lane residents. If the city allows Triple Crown to use Emerald Park, more people could be driving down a road Pamela Lane that residents say is already too congested.
Usage of the park will continue to be hotly debated, with some residents concerned Triple Crown's use of the fields could jeopardize use by the local Little League. That is what prompted former Little League President Harvey Lyon to resign.
The city will be dealing extensively with issues regarding Emerald Park and Triple Crown in upcoming months as it potentially renegotiates a deal with the tournament organizer.