SLO sees more changes

County alters outfitter's rules

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— A North Routt outfitter must change the way it runs its snowmobile tours -- again.

On Tuesday, the county altered the rules Steamboat Lake Outfitters must follow, only three weeks after it imposed new conditions on the company.

Tuesday's hearing marked the eighth time in four years the company and its neighbors have made their separate cases to the county.

"We're here again," County Commissioner Doug Monger said. He and rest of the Routt County Board of Commissioners expressed their frustration with hearing the same complaints from homeowners and the same counterpoints from Steamboat Lake Outfitters.

The matter was back before the board because the neighbors appealed a March 7 decision by the County Planning Commission to not tighten restrictions on the outfitter.

Monger criticized neighbors for repeatedly finding fault with the company and called their protests "petty."

"The sole purpose of this thing is to put SLO out of business," he said.

Steamboat Lake Outfitters uses a mile-long private trail that runs through residential property to get customers to and from the Routt National Forest.

Homeowners whose backyards adjoin the trail are concerned the outfitter does not do enough to keep trespassing snowmobilers off the trail.

"It's a privilege for them to be able to use it," adjacent property owner Caroline Fisher said.

Manager Terry Nelson said the outfitter has gone out of its way to pacify neighbors.

"I don't know of another business that could do it any better," Nelson said.

The neighbors think the outfitter could do more to alleviate the impact of its growing snowmobile operation.

"Some of the neighbors have gotten tired of watching for violations," attorney Sandy Horner said.

Horner represents part-time residents Bob and Doris Newton, who own property adjoining the trail. The neighbors are not trying to shut down Steamboat Lake Outfitters, Horner said.

Bob Newton, while criticizing the outfitter's failure to follow the rules, took the county to task for allowing violations to slip.

"Routt County has allowed it to become an open trailhead," Newton told the board. "It is an open trailhead, and you made it that way."

He is concerned the private route has become a public free-for-all.

The Planning Commission tried to alleviate traffic on the trail by requiring guides from Steamboat Lake Outfitters to lead customers down the trail every hour on the hour, except for regularly scheduled two-hour snowmobile tour departures at 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

The board eliminated the 11:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. exemptions and set a limit of 22 snowmobiles, including one guide for every 10 machines that can depart every hour.

Monger and County Commissioner Dan Ellison are optimistic the new rule will help to alleviate excessive noise and air pollution reported by the neighbors.

County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak voted against the restriction. She said the way to curb complaints was to allow only guided snowmobile tours on the trail.

The county requires guides to accompany all customers who use the trail on their way to the National Forest. Returning snowmobilers do not need guides.

Stahoviak said she could not support what she thought were too lenient conditions set on Steamboat Lake Outfitters.

"This is a commercial use that is going through a neighborhood," she said.

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