Outfitters permit for tours recommended

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A permit that allows Steamboat Lake Outfitters to run snowmobile and All Terrain Vehicle tours out of an area just south of Hahn's Peak was recommended for renewal by Routt County planning commissioners Thursday night.

Several amendments were made to the permit, which had been reapproved by Routt County commissioners last March.

Complaints about operations in the area by several nearby property owners were received this summer, and some of those complaints were discussed Thursday.

Terry Nelson, the general manager of Steamboat Lake Outfitters, said the changes to the permit he most wanted to see were that there be flexibility in the rule requiring each tour to leave every hour on the hour and that evidence of registration not be required on each machine.

Sandy Horner, an attorney representing Doris and Bob Newton who live near the area used for tours, said that the Newtons thought the number of machines allowed for tours should be restricted to eight and that all snowmobile use should be guided to reduce impacts such as noise to residents.

Horner also said the Newtons suggested that gates be installed and other steps be taken to prevent trespassing.

The question county planning commissioners should consider, he said, was the same question considered at earlier meetings: how much use was too much use?

Before the outfitters began running tours in the area, "there was hardly any use at all," Horner said.

"From the neighbors' perspective, there is a heck of a lot of use going on on that trail."

Ken Brink, park manager for Steamboat Lake Park, said the park supported the outfitters' operations and thought that guided tours contributed to increasing public safety.

Overall, he said, Steamboat Lake Outfitters was doing "an excellent job."

Most planning commissioners agreed that the permit needed time to be tested before major changers were made.

Routt County Planning Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said she applauded the outfitters work with guided tours, but that she still had reservations about approving unguided tours.

As for the question about how much use was too much, she said it was difficult to say because of the lack of baseline use measurements in the region.

Planning commissioners recommended the permit be approved, including changes that gave more flexibility to the time tours could leave, that visible registration be visible on machines and that a temporary staging area be usable for snowmobiles and ATVs. County commissioners will have the chance to approve the amended permit Oct. 28.

In other business:

n The county commissioners recommended for approval an expansion to the Pack Country Outfitters permit that would allow the outfitters to use one cabin near Yampa for rentals during summer and winter. Currently, the cabin is used only during hunting season. If county commissioners approve the change Oct. 28, the outfitters will be able to have summer horseback and backpacking trips and winter skiing, snowshoe and snowmobile tours into the cabin.

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