New Web site offers information on local community

Project will serve as a guide to living in Steamboat

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— If you have questions about Routt County, there is only one place to go the Steamboat Springs and Routt County Community Information Center.

The information center is a Web site that blends the history of the Yampa Valley, an activity guide, a community phone book and eclectic local knowledge.

The address is www.yampavalley.info.

The site is intended for those living in the Yampa Valley and offers information on governments, schools, community organizations, businesses, agriculture, parks, health and human services, cultural features, local lore and natural resources.

The project, which is sponsored by the Orton Family Foundation, also has a GIS mapping section that allows users to look up precincts, find landowners and building footprints.

It also has an extensive update on the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan Update.

"If you are not at the right place at the right time, you miss (information)," said Debbie Smith, who has worked on the project for more than a year. "This is a place citizens can come and be a community resource center."

Along with current information on governments, clubs and nonprofit groups, Routt County history is sprinkled throughout the site.

"It is helpful. It is a way people will be able to accumulate and preserve Routt County history," Smith said. "It is a way for the museum and other people to accumulate historical data. But it will take some time for it to grow."

The Orton Foundation will provide five kiosk stations for public use throughout the county. One will be at Centennial Hall and another at the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

The location of the other three has not yet been decided.

The Web site is already receiving 50 to 100 hits a day, but Wednesday is the first time it will be unveiled to the public.

Smith started working on the project last summer.

A year ago, the first public meeting was held to gather ideas from the community, and for the last three months, the Web site could be found at www.yampavalley.info.

Smith still calls the Web site a work in progress.

Some links still lead to blank pages, but she hopes to have everything completed by the end of the year. Her plan is to have volunteers monitor the more than 20 categories the Web site offers.

"The goal is to have each of the sectors take on responsibility for what that sector has," Smith said.

The Orton Foundation has offered training classes to about 50 people from different nonprofit organizations on designing and maintaining Web sites.

Through the Orton Foundation, organizations can also receive their own Web address, which links to the community Web site.

Smith said it offers a chance for many nonprofits or groups to have a Web presence. She points to the Tread of Pioneers Museum, the Haven and the Over-the-Hill Gang as organizations that did not have their own Web page, but now have the chance to monitor the information available.

Jayne Hill, of the Tread of Pioneers Museum, said the Web site is a great resource for nonprofits. She went through the training program to learn about designing a Web site and plans are in the works to create an URL address for the museum. Hill said the Web site would be a place where they could advertise their digital photograph collection, which goes to support the museum.

Along with information on the museum, the community Web site has the background on how Steamboat got its name, history of the ranching community and different historic organizations.

"It is going to be a wonderful resource. So expansive, it is almost limitless," Hill said.

The community information center also has the What's WZ Local Lore site, which explains local legends like the old WZ license plates, local ghosts and what skunk cabbage can predict about the upcoming winter.

But Smith also sees the Web site becoming more interactive and changing daily.

She would like to see a ride board, a classified ads page and a place where updates are given about government decisions. There is also a calendar, which can combine and separate art, community, entertainment, government and sporting events.

She would like people to submit events to her for the calendar and would like to link to other towns and cities for art and cultural events.

Smith sees community participation as crucial in the Web site's future.

"I know a lot of it is not done. We hope to get good information as people see what we are trying to do and get excited about making contributions," Smith said.

Smith hopes to see the success had by other community Web sites such as Boulder, who receives 20,000 hits per day.

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