Water ski jump's fate up in air

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— The fate of a summer aerial ski training facility could be decided at tonight's Routt County Regional Planning Commission.

Planning commissioners will hear a request from Ed MacArthur with Yampa Meadows LLC for a conditional use permit for a ski ramp on his lake a half-mile south of town on U.S. Highway 40.

The decision on the permit, which would allow the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club to train at the lake's water ramp during the summer, was delayed at the planning commissioners' July 25 meeting because more information was needed.

At that hearing, planning commissioners had six main concerns about the project, county planner Chris Brookshire said.

MacArthur said that those concerns have been addressed and that if the permit is approved tonight, athletes could begin training at the lake this September.

"I think the issues can be taken care of and hopefully we can move this forward and get some kids out in the program," MacArthur said.

One concern was that activity on the lake would disturb a pair of bald eagles that have nested near the lake since 1999. The Division of Wildlife has recommended that the birds' exposure to people be minimal from Nov. 15 to July 31, so MacArthur proposed a schedule including training for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club athletes only from 10 a.m. or noon until a time between 6 and 9 p.m., depending on the month, five days a week from May 15 to Nov. 1. From July to Nov. 1, visiting clubs and national teams could practice during the regular time slots.

Another concern was that no information was provided about whether the lake was in a flood plain.

Maps provided for tonight's meeting show the area is in a 100-year flood plain, and a study stated that the bank and gravel mine areas would be partially inundated during a 100-year flood, and the ski jump would have minor flooding.

The Colorado Department of Transportation raised issues about access into the park, to which MacArthur proposed the installation of a specific support bridge.

A concern that people would stop on U.S. Highway 40 to watch the jumping could be addressed through landscaping to screen the area from view, he said.

MacArthur did not address commissioners' request for his future plans for the property, but said he believed he would have a plan to bring forward within six months.

"At this point, because of some involvement with neighboring property owners, I don't think it's prudent to do that," MacArthur said of the request to provide future plans.

Planning commissioners also had expressed concern about what would happen to the gravel piles leftover from a 1998 excavation of the site.

There are three piles, with the tallest reaching 45 feet, which could pose a safety issue.

The ski jump would sit on MacArthur's private lake, which is on a 46-acre area on the west side of U.S. 40, half a mile south of Steamboat. The water in the lake is between 12 and 14 feet deep.

The ski jump, which is mostly completed, will be 52 feet wide, 45 feet tall and 118 feet long. Construction of the jump is being completed by volunteers.

MacArthur has proposed a 20-year lease for the Winter Sports Club that would let the club lease the lake facilities for $1 a year.

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