Steamboat Springs City officials have decided to step away from their scuffle with residents of the Riverside neighborhood in western Steamboat concerning a small piece of city-owned property.
About 0.5 acres of the 4-acre parcel have been voluntarily mowed and maintained for years by the residents, who use the area as a community park. 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.
In addition to ticketing Epstein, the city reviewed the entire mowed area and recommended 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.
After further review of the situation, and a contentious meeting with neighborhood residents Aug. 26, the city's Parks and Recreation Commission has settled on a return to the status quo.
"Parks and Recreation Commission, based on the public meeting and all the input, has supported allowing the neighborhood, if they're interested, to keep following the pattern they have been mowing," Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Director Chris Wilson said.
Riverside resident Marty Boomgarden, who said he has mowed the field voluntarily for about 28 years, has been offered a permit to mow the area.
"I am continuing to mow, as I have in the past," Boomgarden said. "Everything has been resolved. We will go back to what we were doing."
Additionally, City Manager Jon Roberts said he has made a recommendation to the city's prosecutor that Epstein's citation be dropped, which he expects to occur at Epstein's next scheduled municipal court appearance.
"I think the Parks and Recreation Commission working with the community was the appropriate way," Roberts said.
City officials said they have a responsibility to look after the property and were trying to reach a compromise that satisfied neighborhood residents, was consistent with city policies and community plans, and protected the Yampa River.
The city previously proposed a compromise that would have allowed Riverside residents to continue mowing 0.4 acres of the property. The compromise excluded the area Epstein was ticketed for mowing, where willows encroach in an arc into the rectangular field. It also would have further shrunk the field by not allowing mowing within 25 feet of the river's high-water mark. The residents rejected the proposal.
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)."