Marty Boomgarden says he has been voluntarily mowing the unofficial Riverside neighborhood park for 28 years. The neighborhood residents are feuding with the city about how the city-owned parcel should be maintained.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Marty Boomgarden says he has been voluntarily mowing the unofficial Riverside neighborhood park for 28 years. The neighborhood residents are feuding with the city about how the city-owned parcel should be maintained.

Riverside residents fight city to keep mowed field in neighborhood

Advertisement

Intermittent rain punctuated a stormy meeting Wednesday between city officials and residents of the Riverside neighborhood in western Steamboat.

A battle continues about a piece of the neighborhood's city-owned property that has been voluntarily maintained by the residents but that the city would like to see evolve more naturally.

The dispute arose June 9, when the Steamboat Springs Police Department ticketed Riverside resident Dave Epstein for mowing down willow shrubs on the 4-acre parcel with a heavy-duty bush mower. The willows were growing in an arc from the Yampa River into an area that residents say they have maintained for decades as a mowed field of about half an acre. The field is used as an improvised community park.

In addition to ticketing Epstein, the city also is reviewing the entire mowed area and recommending it be reduced in size. The city also removed a salvaged bench installed by Epstein near the river because it didn't meet the city's design standards and management practices.

A Wednesday meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission was held on the parcel and frequently turned ugly, with raised voices, anger, sarcasm and accusations from residents, who said the city is overreaching and that the situation is an example of bureaucracy gone bad.

"In a small town, usually we could have this worked out without going to court," Epstein said.

Although many residents asked simply to be left alone, city officials said they have a responsibility to look after the property and are trying to reach a compromise that satisfies neighborhood residents, is consistent with city policies and community plans, and protects the Yampa River.

Five Riverside residents bought the land to protect it from development and deeded the 4-acre property to the city in 1990. The deed states that the land conveyance to the city is valid only if it "remains predominantly in a natural, scenic and open condition without any construction of improvements thereon (except for streambank stabilization projects)."

Neighborhood residents said mowing the grass and removing the willows is consistent with the deed, especially in terms of maintaining it in a "scenic and open" condition.

"I wanted to see my river," Jim Funk, one of the five property owners on the deed, said Wednesday.

Whither the willows

In an affidavit prepared on behalf of the neighborhood, local retired forester Omar Campbell writes that the willows are invasive and noxious.

"The lawn-like greenbelt can and should be mowed in its entirety. There will be no ecologic, hydrologic (bank erosion), scenic or other ill effects," Campbell writes.

Chris Wilson, city director of the Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, disagrees. He said that willows are not invasive in riparian areas and help stabilize banks.

"Willows are what you want," he said. "They stretch up and down the Yampa."

The city proposed a compromise that would allow Riverside residents to continue mowing 0.4 acres of the property. The compromise excludes the area Epstein was ticketed for mowing, where willows encroach in an arc into the rectangular field. It also would further shrink the field by not allowing mowing within 25 feet of the river's high water mark.

Riverside resident Marty Boomgarden, who said he has voluntarily mowed the field for about 28 years, was offered a permit to mow the compromise area, but he rejected it.

"I disagreed with the boundaries (Wilson) set up," Boomgarden said.

Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Jack Trautman said he felt the compromise was reasonable, especially because the city usually requires a 50-foot setback from the river's high water mark.

Although the rain at Wednesday's meeting was an appropriate backdrop, a rainbow that appeared near the end of it was largely out of place. The meeting didn't end much friendlier than it began, but the residents achieved one small victory. City officials agreed to move a group of boulders placed at one corner of the field shortly after Epstein received his ticket. Wilson and commission members said the rocks were placed to prevent vehicles from driving on the property, but residents felt they were placed to block Boomgarden's riding lawnmower.

"It was the coincidence with the ticket," Riverside resident Cheryl Hardy-Moore said.

The Parks and Recreation Commission will make a recommendation regarding the property at its next meeting in early September.

The residents "always have the option to come to City Council if they believe that Parks and Recreation Commission as an advisory body has missed the mark," Wilson said.

Comments

Karen_Dixon 5 years, 3 months ago

"The deed states that the land conveyance to the city is valid only if it "remains predominantly in a natural, scenic and open condition without any construction of improvements thereon"".....

Does this mean that if it has not been kept in a it's natural state, the dedication is null and void and the property reverts back to the original owners?

0

1999 5 years, 3 months ago

parks and rec usually require a 50 foot setback???????????????

where??????

elk park? little toots?

etc etc etc.

i think the city should be happy these people are taking the initiative

0

Scott Wedel 5 years, 3 months ago

I suspect that if there were any violation of the terms of the deed then the City would have an opportunity to remedy any issues.

The bigger issue is that the neighborhood is taking care of the property and the City has interjected itself into something where there was no problem.

If riverbank erosion is such a concern then develop a plan with a hydrologist. The neighbors don't want the riverbank to erode. But 50 feet buffer seems arbitrary.

0

Karen_Dixon 5 years, 3 months ago

If that is indeed the case, it seems like one answer would be that the original owners assert that position, take back the property, deed it to a neighborhood HOA, and manage it however they see fit.

Another answer would be for the City, specifically Parks & Rec. in this case, to remember that it exists to serve rather than to control. It is hard to say without understanding the original intent of the dedication why the City accepted the parcel. But as a matter of philosophy, one could argue that parks and open space owned by a municipality (particularly when acquired through a donation) are for the benefit of the residents of the community and that the residents' desires for any given park or open space parcel should be the most significant factor when considering how to manage and maintain such lands. Perhaps equal in consideration is how much it costs to manage and maintain and how that gets funded. In this case, it sounds like the cost to the city has been $0?

This article does not suggest that the 5 original owners received anything in exchange for the donation (such as development rights.) If they did, the City then has a stronger position. But to claim that maintaining 25' of natural growth at the Rivers edge is necessary for the health of the River is a weak argument when, as 1999 points out, their own practices elsewhere do not follow that logic.

0

Karen_Dixon 5 years, 3 months ago

"The city also removed a salvaged bench installed by Epstein near the river because it didn't meet the city's design standards and management practices."

Really? Wait to be green!!

0

Scott Wedel 5 years, 3 months ago

The neighborhood is not going to get the property back from the City. The city would have to do something like put a maintenance shop on it to violate the deed.

The river bank elsewhere is reinforced with boulders and that is probably not desirable at this park.

But the riverbank that is threatened by erosion is not 25 feet from the highwater mark. Even the highwater mark is not where erosion is a threat because of the existing grass and such. Riverbank erosion is a threat at that river bank at the edge of the river. And with the neighborhood involvement in taking care of the park, if that river bank needs trees or other help then the neighbors would do it. But don't try to blow smoke and then claim it is for their own good.

0

seriously123 5 years, 3 months ago

How is it that the City can be opposed to this but they are ok with the 700 club coming in and destroying hunreds of acres of land????

0

sandmountain 5 years, 3 months ago

Do I need to apply for a permit to mow the city's right of way which is a portion of my front lawn, or if they are so interested in the City doing it, then why don't they come up here and mow it????? Sounds to me sorta like the Fed. Goverment. Taking on much more than they need to. If they asked, I'll be there would be quite a few volunteers to mow parks and lawns within the city. Could save the City a big bunch of $$.

0

Chad James 5 years, 3 months ago

I have to agree with Karen on this one...Parks and Rec should let this park be. This is the type of thing that should be encouraged in neighborhoods; neighbors working together to meet a common need. I'm also pretty sure that the costs to the city on this one are zero. Until of course you start using man power to remove benches, issue tickets, and place boulders.

These people need to be LEFT ALONE with their park.

Oh, and P.S. Steamboat 700 is proposing 30 acres of parks and over 100 acres of Open Space. 130 of their 585ish acres devoted to open space and parks...that's impressive if you ask me.

0

mtroach 5 years, 3 months ago

The Rita Valitine park development plan is another example of the P&Rec flexing it's muscles to the dismay of the surrounding residents. What's up inside the biggest line on the city's budget? Do we as residents need to clean house down at P&Rec to get someone in there that listens to the residents about our park needs?

0

greenwash 5 years, 3 months ago

I agree let Wilson and Robinson go.

Let neighborhoods have the option to adopt their own parks and I bet they would be better maintained and policed then they are now.

P&R should be high on budget cut list.

These guys are total YAHOOOS.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.