How to help
Contributions to save the noon whistle should be sent to Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, P.O. Box 774611, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477. Make checks payable to Mainstreet Steamboat Springs. For more information, call Tracy Barnett, executive director of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, at 846-1800.
Steamboat Springs Local efforts to restore an iconic siren in downtown Steamboat Springs are gaining steam, and those who contribute money to "save the noon whistle" will have a say in where it goes and what it sounds like.
The noon whistle was an emergency siren that had the historical purpose of summoning volunteer firefighters to blazes. That practical purpose faded with modern communications, but the siren continued to sound a "test" alarm every day at noon until it was removed by the city of Steamboat Springs last month because of concerns that the wooden pole holding it up was unstable.
The whistle stood in the 800 block of Oak Street. Some Old Town residents and businesses rejoiced when the noon whistle was silenced. Others despaired. Cantina restaurant owner Kristi Brown even offered the roof of her building as a potential new location for the noon whistle.
But, citing the results of a nonscientific Steamboat Pilot & Today online reader survey, city and Mainstreet Steamboat Springs officials think most people want the screeching icon back. Of the 309 responses to the survey from the week of Oct. 26, 81 percent were in favor of restoring the noon whistle. On Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council gave its blessing to have the whistle restored but asked Mainstreet Steamboat Springs to raise the money required to do so. The city would continue to pay the $700 annual operating cost for the whistle.
"There was kind of a lot of lighthearted discussion, but also a feeling that it's kind of an important part of our history and heritage," acting City Manager Wendy DuBord said.
Mainstreet Steamboat Springs is leading the fundraising charge and has a goal of $4,000.
"A lot of people miss it," said President Towny Anderson, who said a successful fundraising effort would provide further indication that residents want the noon whistle back. "It makes Steamboat different, and it would be nice to continue that in the future."
Anderson said contributors would be allowed to vote on where the noon whistle will be relocated and what it will sound like. The situation has revived some people's hopes that the harsh siren could be replaced with a more pleasant sound, such as a steamboat whistle, which would hearken to the sound of the city's namesake springs that were damaged and silenced long ago.
If the noon whistle is not restored in Old Town, Howelsen Hill is a likely alternative. DuBord said that might be cheaper because the noon whistle probably could be placed on a Yampa Valley Electric Association pole identified by the city.
Colorado Mountain College student Matt Hoffer also has joined the effort to save the noon whistle. Hoffer said he turned in a report about time that mentioned the noon whistle two days before it was removed. He now is coordinating with Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, Tread of Pioneers Museum and Bud Werner Memorial Library to put on a fundraising event that has not been determined. Hoffer said he hopes to get the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. on board, too.