Four-year-old Kylie Smith gets ready to go horseback riding on Emerald Mountain on Thursday with her mom, Pam Smith, of Centennial.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Four-year-old Kylie Smith gets ready to go horseback riding on Emerald Mountain on Thursday with her mom, Pam Smith, of Centennial.

Recreational users discuss options for mountain's future

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Past Event

Public meeting about the future use of Emerald Mountain

  • Thursday, August 21, 2008, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Steamboat Springs Community Center, 1605 Lincoln Ave., Steamboat Springs
  • Not available

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With unlimited recreational options on Emerald Mountain, city officials and consultants are struggling to satisfy everyone with future plans for the area.

A group of about 15 mountain bikers, hikers, horseback riders and others interested in the recreational uses of Emerald Mountain met Thursday evening at the Steamboat Springs Community Center to give input about the future of the 4,139-acre parcel of land. The meeting was hosted by the city of Steamboat Springs, the Bureau of Land Management and THK Associates - the consultants hired by the BLM and the city to put together management guidelines for the mountain.

The land was acquired by the BLM in February 2007 through a land exchange that involved the city, the Emerald Mountain Partnership and other partners. Since that time, there have been five public meetings held in Craig, Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs to gauge public needs and desires for the future of the mountain.

Gina Robison, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM's Little Snake Office, said the office has heard multiple requests for a loop trail system. Craig Robinson, the open space supervisor for the city, said Routt County commissioners support a loop system because it would help keep bikers off of narrow county roads.

"I think the loop trail will probably happen. We've heard so much about it," Robison said.

This summer, the BLM is working on completing Ridge Trail, which runs along the northern end of the parcel. Robison said there are about 4 miles left to construct and with the help of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps in September, she predicted it's possible the trail could be finished later this year.

City and wildlife officials are considering many factors when making plans for new trails in the area. The elk calving season is one of them.

"Any human activity can disturb calving patterns," Danielle Domson, district wildlife manager for the Division of Wildlife, said at the meeting. She recommended closing trails to everyone during calving season to avoid disrupting the animals. All of the user groups present agreed it was a good idea in order to respect the wildlife and said they didn't think users would mind the closures if they understood the reason.

Emerald Mountain is currently divided into two zones, and the main difference between them is that mountain biking is not allowed in Zone 2. While Zone 1 is geared toward more strenuous activities, Zone 2 is reserved for activities such as wildlife viewing and hiking. The consultants are considering moving the boundaries to allow for the loop trail.

Consultant Steve Sellenriek said any new trails will be multi-use and that "we're just going to have to get along," in reference to individual user group needs that were voiced.

Other proposed changes include additional parking lots, restrooms and information kiosks at trailheads.

The consultants plan to organize groups of people willing to manage, maintain and raise funding for Emerald Mountain.

The final public meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21. Consultants said they hope to have a more finalized implementation plan available, outlining the rules and uses for Emerald Mountain.

- To reach Kristi Mohrbacher, call 871-4243 or e-mail kmohrbacher @steamboatpilot.com

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