Thursday, January 1, 2004
Preliminary work to update a plan for recreational uses in North Routt County has begun and public meetings likely will be scheduled for the next month or two.
Routt County Planner Chad Phillips said the update to the Upper Elk River Valley Community Plan likely would detail why people use the area for recreation, what the area's capacity for recreation is and how the rural character of the area could be maintained if recreational use increases, among other issues.
In a December meeting, Phillips said representatives from Routt County, Routt National Forest and Steamboat Lake State Park agreed to collaborate on the winter recreational use research to save time and money.
The planning comes after a recent decision by the Routt County Planning Commission to allow a temporary snowmobiling trail near Hahn's Peak Village that links Steamboat Lake State Park with Routt National Forest.
The approval of the temporary trail was hailed as a good compromise by some and as a mistake by others, and it has highlighted the controversies over winter recreation use in the North Routt area. The temporary trail should open within the next few weeks or months if it is approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The county's goal through the planning process is to update the recreation portion of the Upper Elk River Valley plan. Currently, that portion is only two-and-a-half pages long and did not anticipate the growth in recreational uses the county has seen, Phillips said.
The national forest is considering a larger-scope winter use plan, a section of which could relate to North Routt. National forest representatives were not available for comment.
Steamboat Lake State Park also will be at the table for the winter recreation discussions to be supportive partners, said park Manager Ken Brink.
While the national forest and state park would focus on users, the county's focus is on preserving the rural character of Routt County, a goal designated in the county's master plan, and to represent the community's interests.
"We're doing more of a neighborhood or a community-type plan, so we're watching out for ... the community residents and businesses," Phillips said.
Currently, Phillips said, there are multiple questions about recreational use in the North Routt area. A first step in planning for future uses would be to inventory what recreational options are available and to determine how much recreation the area could handle.
Through working together, the county, along with the national forest and state park, would be able to hold public meetings and complete surveys and other research together.
"If we all kind of tag-team it together, we should all get out of it what we need without duplicating any effort and by saving some taxpayer money," Phillips said.
Phillips estimated that the county's plan could be completed by fall, while the plans the national forest is working on likely would take longer.
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