Doug Button is a man of his word.
After telling Routt County planning commissioners that he planned to ride his snowmobile on the Poverty Bar Trail that runs along the west side of Hahn's Peak Village, Button went out with his son and a friend and rode the trail Friday morning.
By riding the trail, Button defied a previous county decision that Poverty Bar Trail be designated only for summer, nonmotorized use. The trail is several miles away from a temporary motorized-use trail approved by the Routt County Planning Commission on Thursday.
Button's ride also reiterated a point he made at the planning commission's Thursday meeting, that he would support only Poverty Bar as a winter multiple-use trail to link Steamboat Lake State Park to Routt National Forest land.
Button's ride elicited upset responses from village residents and highlighted winter recreation conflicts that have been growing in the area as winter use increases.
The temporary trail approved Thursday was seen by many as a compromise; it was far enough away from the village to keep noise at a minimum but still provided the access between Steamboat Lake State Park and the Routt National Forest.
The temporary trail was made possible by access on private land, given free to the park for use this winter only.
Button and several others said they preferred the state park use the Poverty Bar Trail for motorized uses. The trail sits on an 8.5-acre strip of land that Button sold to the park in 2002.
"This is a serious game to me, and this is just the tip of the iceberg," Button said.
If the state restricts the Poverty Bar Trail to nonmotorized uses only, Button said he plans to ride his snowmobile and bring friends along with him. He said that according to deed restrictions he added to his sale agreement with the park, he should be allowed to do just that.
Steamboat Lake State Park Manager Ken Brink, who has maintained that a trail linking the state park and national forest is important, said the park has put up no-snowmobiling signs at Poverty Bar Trail in hopes that the public would honor the county's intent that the trail be for summer use only.
Bryan Heselbach, president of the Hahn's Peak Property Owners' Association, said the village residents support the public process of finding and discussing solutions to the linking trail issue. The temporary trail was the result of a lot of hard work and compromise, so it should be used, he said.
"It would help put in a much-needed trail, a beautiful quality trail, that could be located at the farthest distance possible from residents so it would reduce the impact but provide much-needed access for snowmobiles," Heselbach said.
Button's snowmobile riding Friday, Heselbach said, was not an example of "a rational path to take."
The temporary trail is not a done deal, however. Its approval is contingent on approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is examining effects the groomed trail could have on wildlife.
Routt County Planner Chad Phillips said Button's claim that he has deed restrictions that allow him to ride the trail won't hold up, as Button has to follow county regulations as does every other county resident.
He also said the controversy is an example of problems that plans encounter when all neighbors aren't contacted and worked with from the start. The first thing county planners ask people who are proposing projects is whether they have talked with their neighbors, he said.
"The whole thing starts with the fact that the negotiations were completed, that Poverty Bar Trail was purchased by the state, without even talking to the residents of Hahn's Peak Village," Phillips said.
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