Steamboat Springs After years of trying, Ray Selbe finally opened his Soaring Eagle RV Park on U.S. Highway 40 west of Steamboat Springs - and just in time.
The Routt County Board of Commissioners rejected plans for the park in 2002. In 2004, with a revised application that reduced the capacity of the RV park from 53 to 25 vehicles, commissioners approved it against the recommendation of the Routt County Planning Commission.
Had the process taken any longer, the park may never have opened. According to county planner Mary Alice Page-Allen, revisions made in 2006 to the county's zoning regulations would disallow the development. The park's location is zoned for agriculture.
The park, located 3.5 miles west of Steamboat at 25250 West U.S. Highway 40, has been open for three weeks, Selbe said. Despite being approved nearly three years ago, Selbe said it has taken this long to get all the permits and infrastructure in place to comply with the county's permit conditions.
"The waste treatment is state of the art," Selbe said. "That took a great deal of time."
Selbe said business has been good in the park's first few weeks, with Triple Crown baseball teams and visitors to the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo constituting much of his clientele. He said he also expects the park to be home to some of Steamboat's temporary workforce. The arrival of three such workers was expected Monday.
"Business has been real good," Selbe said. "The other campgrounds have been real good about sending people to us."
The park is on a 23-acre parcel of land adjacent to Selbe's ranching and farming operations. Selbe said he and his wife, Karen, have long hoped to put the "idle pasture" to use. The park is visible from the highway, with an attention-grabbing teepee - illuminated at night - situated near the front of the park. Selbe, who was born on the ranch, said the teepee sits on the spot where he found his first arrowhead as a child pasturing dairy cattle.
Page-Allen said the park's visibility was one of the concerns that held up its development. Landscaping will help mitigate that concern. Steamboat Foliage & Flowers will install $29,000 worth of landscaping during the next few years. Selbe said hundreds of trees were planted this year, with 200 more scheduled to be planted next year.
"You probably won't be able to see the place," Selbe said.
Other objections to the RV park mostly involved concerns about having a commercial operation on land traditionally used for agriculture. The county commissioners reasoned that supplemental uses of ranchland were beneficial to agriculture because they allowed ranchers and farmers to make enough supplemental income to keep their agricultural operations viable.
But according to Page-Allen, the revised zoning regulations will no longer exempt RV parks from rules forbidding commercial development on agricultural land.
"There was a thinking in the past that these were acceptable uses in agriculturally zoned districts," Page-Allen said. "It was an antiquated regulation that had been replaced throughout the years."
She said the revisions were not made with Soaring Eagle in mind.
Selbe said the park has reached 60 percent of its capacity on a few occasions in its first few weeks. He eventually expects the park to be booked solid.
"Reservations have been strong," Selbe said. "This will fill up. I think probably by next year we'll have a pretty steady following."
The nightly rate at Soaring Eagle is $45, with reduced rates kicking in for stays four days and longer. The park offers full hook-up service and Wi-Fi Internet access. The park is open from the first of May until the end of October. In compliance with county requirements, the park has no permanent structures; buildings such as the shower facilities will be removed in the winter.
There are a few miles of trails accessible from the park, and Selbe said he hopes to add additional recreational amenities such as a volleyball court and swimming pool.