SLO permit OK'd; unguided ATV use isn't

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Routt County commissioners renewed Steamboat Lake Outfitters' permit for operating snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle tours in an area south of Hahn's Peak.

Routt County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak voted against the renewal, as she did at its consideration in March, because she said she did not agree that unguided snowmobiles should be allowed on the access easement.

The permit was recommended for approval by the Routt County Regional Planning Commission earlier this month.

Representatives from Steamboat Lake Outfitters and from neighboring property owners asked that the county commissioners make changes in the permit. The guiding company asked for more leniency, and the property owners asked for stricter rules.

County commissioners said they did not want to change the permit because it went into effect in March and so was not in effect for an entire winter season.

"I feel we haven't had enough time to allow this ... permit to go through," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said. "I'm not ready to make any changes on the rest of the conditions, increasing the conditions or decreasing the conditions."

The county commissioners did agree to make it clear that unguided ATV tours were not allowed, a point that they said was the intention of the permit.

Terry Nelson, the general manager of Steamboat Lake Outfitters, said unguided ATVs were used by hunters and members of Routt County Search and Rescue, but commissioners said that unguided tours could be dangerous.

Nelson asked the county commissioners to provide a 15-minute window for departure time, allow additional snowmobiles on tours, and leave snow on the access road or groom a trail so machines could continue to access the forest through spring months.

"The existing constraint makes it difficult for us, as a business, to achieve financial success in a short season," Nelson said.

Sandy Horner, an attorney representing two property owners near the snowmobile operation, said neighbors requested a cap on the number of snowmobilers each day and requested that use be monitored more, among other things.

"We've been here before," Horner said. "But I think it's important that the Board of County Commissioners understands that these neighbors are still concerned."

Doris Newton, one of the property owners Horner represents, said her main concern was that the easement could become a public trailhead.

Monger later said county commissioners had the same concern and were working to make sure that doesn't happen.

Stahoviak ended the discussion by saying that the issue of getting recreational users into forest land without negatively impacting neighbors was a crucial one to long-term plans for North Routt County.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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