A temporary motorized winter recreation trail linking the Steamboat Lake State Park to Routt National Forest, along with plans to incorporate 168 acres with a summer trail and two rental cabins into the state park, were given initial approval by the Routt County Planning Commission on Thursday night.
Before recommending that county commissioners approve the project, planning commissioners congratulated state park, State Land Board and U.S. Forest Service officials for working together to solve what they called a serious issue in North Routt County: increased winter recreation that leads to trespassing and parking problems, among other negative effects.
"I think you people have done a fantastic thing," Planning Commissioner Fred Nichols said. "You're working to solve a major, major problem in North Routt."
The proposed trail was tried as a temporary trail last winter. It is about 1.5 miles, starting at the Marina parking lot and traveling around the lake on a groomed trail, eventually meeting up with national forest.
The State Land Board has entered into a contract with the owners of the 168-acre parcel to purchase the property for the state park's trust.
The land is important not only because it could provide a potential trail, but also because it prevents the park from becoming landlocked by private land and is important for views and wildlife, Steamboat Lake State Park manager Ken Brink has said.
The U.S. Forest Service has approved the temporary trail but has not approved a permanent trail. It first wants to analyze winter recreation in North Routt County.
Even if the trail cannot become permanent, Brink said acquiring the land parcel was important for the state park's future because it provides options.
Several residents of Hahn's Peak Village expressed their support for the project, as did others who said they recognized a need for such a trail in the area.
Leslie Lovejoy of Friends of the Routt Backcountry said she had concerns about where the snowmobilers would go after leaving state park and entering U.S. forest land and whether they would interfere with potential nonmotorized areas.
Doug Button, who owns land the proposed trail could border, said the trail should be moved to stay as far from private property owners as possible.
Planning commissioners asked why the temporary trail took the proposed route, to which Brink replied that the route would result in less environmental effect than others and would keep snowmobilers separate from the Nordic uses in the state park.
Ty Lockhart, who owns land that the trail could come near, said he would not object to the winter trail as long as a summer trail would not be in the same place.
"All in all, I think it's a great deal for Routt County and everybody, because that is one of the best and the prettiest view corridors," Lockhart said about the State Land Board purchasing the land for the park's trust.
As part of the Planning Commissioner's recommended conditions, the state park can try the trail out for a winter, while analyzing the intensity of use, any violations, traffic it creates and any complaints from neighboring property owners.
The plans will be considered by Routt County commissioners at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 23.
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