Temporary trail closed early

Snowmobile trail an 'excellent' solution, park officials say

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A temporary snowmobile trail linking National Forest land with Steamboat Lake State Park was an "excellent" solution to trespassing and parking problems in the North Routt area, state park officials said.

The trail opened at the beginning of March and was used for three weeks, said Steamboat Lake State Park Manager Ken Brink. The trail was closed one week before the scheduled March 31 closure because of poor snow conditions.

About 40 people used the trail each day, Brink said.

Before the trail opened, those users probably had been riding through town and disturbing residents or trespassing on the Steamboat Lake Outfitters' trail easement, Brink said.

"We felt like our test was a big success, and we're interested in continuing to pursue that option," Brink said.

State park officials are working to make the trail permanent by purchasing the land it crosses. Negotiations are continuing, but approval from the U.S. Forest Service and from Routt County for a permanent trail is needed before any contract can be signed, Brink said.

Discussion about the trail will continue Tuesday at a work session with Routt County commissioners, state park officials and others. The session is open to the public, but public comment will not be taken.

"We're going to try to put our heads together and figure out what we can do to move forward on (the trail), since it seems to be a great solution to a lot of problems," Brink said.

If the trail were purchased, the funds would come from the state parks capital development budget, which receives money from the state lottery, Great Outdoors Colorado and other sources. Recent discussions about the tight budgets that state parks are facing relate to the operational budgets of parks, which are funded through park fees and the state general fund.

The trail is about 1.5 miles, starting at the marina parking lot, crossing Routt County Road 129 then heading north until it hits Forest Service Road 410.

Comments from the public about the trail have been supportive, Brink said. Several residents said that for the first time in a long time, they did not see anyone trespassing through the area, and several others said the pressure at certain parking and riding areas was alleviated.

Terry Nelson, general manager of Steamboat Lake Outfitters, said the trail has provided an important link to miles of trails that many people want to use but previously have not been able to reach without trespassing.

"It made access to the National Forest very conducive to people who were staying here," Nelson said. "It's been a significant help for us."

North Routt resident Doug Button, who recently sold to Steamboat Lake State Park a thin piece of land along Hahn's Peak Village for accessing National Forest, continues to say that spending money on another trail is wasteful and that the temporary trail was dangerous.

Routt County commissioners meet with state park officials and others at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Commissioners Hearing Room in the Courthouse Annex.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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