Steamboat Springs Great Outdoors Colorado gave final approval Wednesday to grants totaling $900,000 for Howelsen Hill improvements and $600,000 for the city’s purchase of a massive Emerald Mountain parcel owned by Lyman Orton. The $1.5 million haul for Steamboat Springs is expected to spur two projects driven by passionate community efforts in recent months.
GOCo also awarded more than $1.2 million to The Nature Conservancy to help fund a conservation easement on 2,400 acres of the Smith Rancho, a working sheep ranch outside of Hayden.
Winnie DelliQuadri, Steamboat Springs’ government programs manager, attended the GOCo board of directors hearing in Longmont on Wednesday. Referring to the funds for Steamboat, she said the board approved $700,000 for a new K38 ski jump at Howelsen Hill and $200,000 for lighting improvements on Howelsen’s slopes. The board also approved the city’s modified application for the $600,000 related to the Orton parcel, which includes 586 acres on Emerald’s north side that has been widely used by the public for recreation.
DelliQuadri said GOCo’s approval essentially clears the final hurdle — outside of a few due diligence items — toward the city’s purchase of the Emerald land. She said the city could close on the property in the next three months.
“Then it will be public, city-owned property that will be permanently open to the public,” she said.
Negotiations for the Orton parcel stretched throughout several months in late summer and fall. Steamboat Springs City Council approved a purchase contract of about $1.3 million Oct. 19, pledging to spend $700,000 from the city’s capital projects fund, plus about $16,000 in due diligence costs, pending GOCo’s approval of the $600,000 grant.
That approval now is in place.
“It’s huge,” DelliQuadri said. “It means we have the opportunity to do that project.”
Howelsen Hill hopes
A larger amount of work remains for the Howelsen Hill improvements.
The new plastic-covered K38 jump, which would be open year-round and allow younger athletes to continue ski jumping in the summer, has a total price tag of $1.5 million. Lighting improvements to expand Howelsen’s night-skiing access have a total cost of $350,000.
While both those figures exceed the GOCo grants awarded Wednesday, DelliQuadri said the grants are vital to Howelsen Hill improvement efforts that are using public and private funds from a variety of sources.
DelliQuadri and Nancy Spillane said this week that efforts to date have secured $200,000 in private funding, which will supplement $250,000 allocated from the city through surplus 2009 funds and $80,000 from the city’s Howelsen Hill capital improvement fund.
The private fundraising goal is $550,000.
“We still have some fundraising to do,” DelliQuadri said. “We still have to get some more private dollars in the door, and we’re hopeful we can do that.”
DelliQuadri and other Howelsen Hill Centennial Campaign supporters are urging folks to vote in Pepsi’s Refresh Everything Project. Pepsi is accepting 1,000 ideas each month, and the Howelsen Hill Centennial Campaign made the list of approved ideas for December, along with 300 other projects that are seeking the largest award of $250,000. The project also grants awards of $5,000, $25,000 and $50,000.
From now until the end of the month, anyone can vote for an idea by visiting www.refresheverything.com. The site asks voters to register in an effort to limit each person to one vote per day on a computer. People also can vote using a cell phone by texting 104707 to 73774. Regular text messaging charges will apply.
People can vote once a day via the website and text messaging.
'Music to my ears'
Geoff Blakeslee, Yampa River project director for The Nature Conservancy, is leading the Smith Rancho conservation effort outside Hayden. He was in Oregon on Wednesday and was excited to learn GOCo had awarded the effort more than $1.2 million.
“That’s music to my ears,” he said. “This is a wonderful project.”
Blakeslee said the entire conservation easement could encompass more than 4,000 acres on the ranch north of Hayden. He said about $1.2 million from Routt County’s purchase of development rights program could conserve a portion of the ranch that encompasses all of Hooker Mountain, a landmark visible from Hayden. The portion to be conserved through the GOCo funds, he said, is farther east, near Carpenter Ranch.
Blakeslee said parts of the easement are contiguous to an easement on Wolf Mountain Ranch.
“Smith Rancho is so important to a number of different wildlife species,” he said. “It consolidates a very large, un-fragmented landscape.”
Awards are ‘humbling’
DelliQuadri said the GOCo board also allowed the city to keep a $163,321 grant intended to help fund a new bridge over the Yampa River near the Depot Art Center on 13th Street. The board extended the city’s deadline to use those funds through December 2011, meaning the grant won’t be lost for lack of use while the city continues to plan for the bridge.
DelliQuadri said the bridge has a total cost of more than $700,000 — the city also has received Colorado Department of Transportation dollars for the project, she said — and would help keep foot traffic, especially young children, off 13th Street.
GOCo was created through a citizens initiative and approved by state voters in 1992.
It uses a portion of lottery proceeds to help preserve, protect, enhance and manage parks, rivers, trails and other open spaces.
A GOCo news release said the organization awarded grants Wednesday that totaled more than $24 million, for 55 projects in 32 counties across Colorado. GOCo received 108 applications requesting about $40 million, the release stated.
DelliQuadri said the Steamboat Springs funding items “flew through with no questions,” creating a result that she had hoped for but not counted on.
“It’s very humbling to know that all of ours did,” she said. “We are fortunate as a community.”