Wildlife recreationalists will have a new parking lot to use at the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area this summer.
The parking lot will be off Routt County Road 14 and intended for the 102-acre parcel the city of Steamboat Springs purchased in 2004 and the Colorado Division of Wildlife agreed to manage. Waterfowl hunting, fishing and hiking are allowed on the land, which previously was a Lafarge gravel pit site.
On Thursday night, the Routt County Planning Com--mission recommended approval for a conditional use permit to construct a parking lot that will hold five to 10 vehicles.
Construction of the 80-by-60-foot gravel parking lot, which also will include signage and a fence, is expected to start immediately, DOW District Wildlife Manager Valerie Masiello said.
The 102 acres purchased by the city, between River Road and Colorado Highway 131, was in addition to the 181 acres the DOW already managed and owned as the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.
At Thursday's meeting, Planning Commissioner John Ayer asked whether it was prudent to build a new parking lot before seeing how many people used the new site. The parking lot would be the third for the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.
"Why now, without knowing and monitoring what kind of use it is going to get and demand?" Ayer asked.
DOW Area Wildlife Man--ager Susan Warner said that to access the newly acquired land, which includes a 40-acre lake, people are parking in an existing lot off Routt County Road 14F and walking along the railroad tracks.
"It's being accessed by walking on the railroad tracks, which is both not legal and setting up a dangerous situation," Warner said.
The new parking lot is not close to the railroad tracks and is a shorter distance to the lake, which would help ease the problem.
The planning department has heard concerns from neighbors worried about the use of the railroad tracks. Neighbors also are concerned that the parking lot would create too much public use of the wildlife area, disturbing migrating birds, wildlife and wildlife habit.
No one attended Thur--sday's meeting to speak against the parking lot.
Warner said the DOW hoped to add new trails to the site in 2006 and 2007. One trail would run from an existing parking lot on Routt County Road 14F to the lake, which would help stop the use of the railroad tracks, Warner said. Another trail is proposed from the new parking lot to the lake.
Even with the trail from the new parking lot, Masiello said users would have to cross the Yampa River to get to the lake. The DOW has proposed to put large stones in the river to aid in the crossing. A footbridge has been discussed, but Warner said it could be 10 to 15 years before funding is available.
The new addition to the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area will not allow dogs, except those used for hunting or as seeing-eye dogs. It also does not allow fires, camping, overnight parking, big-game hunting, horses or bikes.
In November, the city facilitated a deal in which it holds the title on the 102-acre site. The city did not fund any of the $896,000 purchase price. The majority of the funding came from Great Outdoors Colorado grants and smaller contributions from the DOW and Routt County Purchase of Development Rights program.
The site has had gravel mined from it since the 1960s, and Lafarge purchased the land in 1998, the same year the city acquired an option to purchase the property when it sold.
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