Former council president honored

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Former City Council President Kevin Bennett was awarded the Steamboat Springs Heritage Award on Tuesday for his work with building Centennial Hall and preserving open space.

The award was presented during an hourlong ceremony that also acknowledged the partners that made it possible for the city to be recognized nationally as a Preserve America community.

In honoring Bennett, City Council President Paul Strong spoke to his vision for building Centennial Hall, which preserved the Carver Power Plant and transformed it into a community meeting area and city offices.

Bennett also was recognized for his work in the Yampa Valley Land and Cattle Deal, which preserved about 4,000 acres of open space next to Emerald Mountain and south of town. The preservation effort was part of the Yampa River Legacy Project.

"Without Kevin's vision at some point in time, that probably would have been developed," Strong said of the now preserved land.

Bennett recalled the progress the city has made in the 34 years he has lived in Steamboat. He remembered collecting $15 from each of the merchants to plant flower boxes along Lincoln Avenue.

"Our town looks a heck of a lot better than it did 30 some years ago," Bennett said.

Bennett served eight years on the City Council and seven as council president before his termed ended in 2001.

Since his time on the council, Bennett said the city has continued to make progress in finding key pieces of land to preserve such as the Lockhart Property near River Road and Mount Werner Road and the north Lafarge gravel pit, which the council approved to purchase Tuesday.

He asked that council members continue to get the same goose bumps he did when approving to preserve open space.

"I can't think of any better gift to the future than the preservation of the past," he said. "And, that good planners make great ancestors."

The Heritage Award, which has community members make nominations and then the council select the recipient, began in 1999 in honor of the city's Centennial Celebration.

In 2000, the city honored John Fetcher, and in 2002 it honored the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Bennett's work with Centennial Hall was among the reasons he was honored.

Centennial Hall was given national recognition this winter when first lady Laura Bush mentioned it during her opening comments in the Preserve America ceremony.

On Jan. 15, Steamboat Springs was one of eight communities honored in a White House ceremony as part of the Preserve America initiative, a program launched by Bush. The communities were the first to be honored for their commitment to protecting their historic heritage.

At Tuesday's meeting, the city publicly acknowledged and gave proclamations to the partners that contributed to the national designation.

Those organizations included: the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, Historic Routt County!, Yampatika, Tread of Pioneers Museum, Orton Family Foundation, the Steamboat Springs Art Council, Colorado Preservation Inc., the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Historical Society, State Historical Society, Office of Preservation and Archeology and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

Michael Beasley, director of the Department of Local Affairs, said he was not surprised that Steamboat was given national accolades on its historic preservation efforts.

"Steamboat is a community like no other, that can pull together and prioritize," Beasley said.

State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, also spoke of the city's honor and said that Steamboat would become central to the state's efforts to promote Heritage Tourism, on which the state has agreed to spend $550,000 to promote.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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