City officials and landowner Lyman Orton have reached an agreement on a contract that, pending grant funds and final approval, could obligate the city for just more than $2 million in the next five years to purchase 586 acres on Emerald Mountain.

Photo by John F. Russell

City officials and landowner Lyman Orton have reached an agreement on a contract that, pending grant funds and final approval, could obligate the city for just more than $2 million in the next five years to purchase 586 acres on Emerald Mountain.

City, Orton reach agreement on Emerald purchase

586-acre land deal contingent on factors including GOCo grant, council approval



— City officials have reached a signed contract with landowner Lyman Orton that represents a significant step toward Steamboat Springs’ purchase of 586 acres on Emerald Mountain’s north side.

Orton said Monday that the contract includes a $1.3 million upfront purchase price for the land, plus a clause stipulating that in the next five years, the city will match funds raised by a group called Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park for implementation of the site’s master plan. The contract requires the city to provide funds up to a maximum of $750,000 throughout that time.

The contract would give the city a total five-year obligation of about $2.05 million, which would match the appraisal of the Orton parcel.

City government programs manager Winnie DelliQuadri confirmed Monday that a signed contract has been reached. City Attorney Tony Lettunich could not be reached to comment on contract details but likely will update the Steamboat Springs City Council on the contract at the end of tonight’s council meeting in Centennial Hall on 10th Street.

Orton said he also plans to speak to the council about the contract tonight, possibly during the public comment portion at 7 p.m.

City Manager Jon Roberts said last week that any purchase agreement would be conditional upon the city’s ability to use a $600,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and upon the council’s approval of the deal in the form of an enabling ordinance. Approval of the ordinance would require two public hearings and City Council votes on first and second reading. Those votes could occur next month.

Deb Hinsvark, the city’s interim finance director, said should the city move forward with the purchase, and should the city receive the $600,000 from GOCo, the city’s balance of $700,000 for the upfront cost would come from the city’s capital improvements fund.

That fund will have about $3.8 million available in 2011, she said.

There were questions last week about whether the city would be able to reach an agreement in time to access the GOCo grant, which expires at the end of this year and requires as much as three months of due diligence work before funds can be released.

DelliQuadri said Monday’s agreement should enable the city to access the $600,000 grant.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to do all the due diligence items in a timely manner and close in early December,” she said.

Orton was seeking a little more than $2 million for the property he proposes to sell to the city. He owns a total of about 1,200 acres on Emerald’s north side — south and west of the Fairview neighborhood and south of 13th Street, also known as Twentymile Road.

The 586 acres he has offered to the city are outside of city limits and directly west of the dirt portion of Blackmer Drive that winds up the mountain from Fairview.

The land is under a conservation easement held by the Yampa Valley Land Trust that does not ensure public access. However, Orton has allowed public use of the land for recreation such as hiking and mountain biking.

A city purchase of the land would ensure permanent public access. In addition, Orton envisions a public facility that could be used by youth groups and as a Nordic skiing center in winter. He said Monday that the city’s contributions of as much as $750,000 in the next five years would help make that vision a reality.

Orton said the purchase agreement also requires the city to enter into a contract with HEMP for long-term management of the site, in a structure he said could be similar to management of the city’s Haymaker Golf Course.

Orton noted that the contract remains contingent on several factors in the coming weeks.

“It’s a contract signed by staff … the City Council has to approve it and adopt an ordinance to do so,” Orton said. “But I’m pleased that we’re moving along. I look at this really as a positive step and hope to have an opportunity to speak briefly to (City) Council” tonight.


sledneck 6 years, 7 months ago

"The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else." Frederic Bastiat

"Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad." Euripides

We are broke people. Has anyone an incling of the concept?

I wonder, indeed I tremble in fear, to think that individual Americans are still trying to live as is our government. If so I have to once again revise downward my estimate for the life expectancy of this republic.


Zed 6 years, 7 months ago

This is a wonderful investment in our open space and community, it will have more lasting impact than paving Lincoln ave or building new developments in Ski Time Square. I will once again raise my estimate for the expectancy of our republic when resources can be put behind long term vision. It is also refreshing to see a land owner allowing public access to hikers and mountain bikers, Thank you Lyman.


Neil O'Keeffe 6 years, 7 months ago

And then we have ET at not so Humble Ranch? Is that your inference?


vanguy 6 years, 7 months ago

If we can justify spending $1.4 million of the taxpayer's money ($2m less the $600,000 in grant money) to acquire some more open space for recreational purposes, why can't the city and county find the resources to invest money in the extension of the Core Trail to West Steamboat?

The Emerald open space acquisition is a non-essential luxury item.

It seems to me that the Core Trail extension would be a more practical use of community resources, given that the core trail provides an alternative transportation solution and a safe route to school for more than 1000 people...and hundreds of local children.

I suppose the thought of Lyman Orton selling this land to Humble Ranch scares the "you know what" out of some number of our elected officials...


Daniel Smilkstein 6 years, 7 months ago

“The Emerald open space acquisition is a non-essential luxury item.”

I would call it an essential investment in the quality of life of our community.

I would call it an investment in the our infrastructure that will diversify our community economic base and help transform downtown Steamboat in to a more vital thriving hub.

Our most valuable, abundant, and renewable resource in Steamboat and the Yampa Valley is outdoor open space recreation. It produces a crop all year every year and while we appreciate it and give it lip service we have not always respected it or utilized it in the most productive manner.

This is our opportunity to create something unique and remarkable.
This park is being created primarily for our community, but a good thing is hard to keep secret. There has already been an article in the Washington Examiner this week and Cross Country Skier Magazine will be publishing a major article on cross country skiing in Steamboat Springs with a byline on the future Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park.

I know there are two words we are not supposed to use in Steamboat, development and tourist, so instead we will create a destination nordic center and trail based recreation area that will attract visitors who share our values and appreciation of nature, sport and recreation.
When visitors come they do bring bagage, both literal and figuative. They will be a noisy group. Listen for the sound of heavy breathing, the sound made when skis glide over snow, the sound of bike tires rolling across forest and meadow single tracks trails, the sound of feet pounding on dirt and snowshoes compressing the air out of powder snow. They will require lodging and due to their compulsion to exert themselves in the out of doors they will require much food, drink and clothing.

When you think of Howlesen Emerald Mountain Park think great cross country skiing, think great biking, hiking and trail running, think national recognition for our spectacular trail recreation and our commitment to making this the best mountain community anywhere. Dan


vanguy 6 years, 7 months ago

While I agree with the "spirt" of the post above, I struggle with the idea that our tax dollars are paying to create more of something we already have, and further justifying the expense by speculating how much local business and tax revenues will be generated by future visitors attracted to the new project.

Don't get me wrong...I think the vision is cool...but we must question why we are spending this money RIGHT NOW, at the expense of delaying other projects that have already been established as far greater priorities to our community.

  • Did you know that the Core Trail Extension to West Steamboat has been identified as a top community priority in virtually every Plan, Vision, and Study drafted since 1999?

  • Did you know that 15% of the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan's Action Plan relates to completing this project, regardless of any future growth in West Steamboat?

  • Did you know that Vision 2030 (ironically, subsidized by Mr. Orton) listed the Core Trail Extension as one of the single most important priorities to our community.

  • Did you know we done absolutely nothing about it (to date)?

At what point exactly was this Emerald land acquisition deemed a higher priority for our community?

And don't we already have several established, yet poorly marketed, ski touring facilities in Routt County? (not to mention miles of FREE free groomed trails in West Steamboat)

Let's start by spending a little money to try and market our Existing Nordic Skiing opportunities, and see what kind of market there really is before we make the huge, speculative investment of tax dollars?

Haven't we learned anything from our friends in the real estate development industry? From the Iron Horse? Just because you build it doesn't guarantee "they will come".

Sadly, this sexy, new Emerald Mountain project is going to "cut in line", and steal civic funds from projects for which our community has been asking for over a decade.

...because it's good for Press, and it's good for Politics.

Can you imagine the public outcry if Humble Ranch bought this land out from under us, locked the gate, and threw away the key? City council would be subjected (unfairly) to the equivalent of a public lynching if this were to happen.

My working-class household generates far more sales tax dollars than even the most affluent guests to our valley. I prefer that our city and county governments BOTH prioritize and invest their resources on a project that provides a safe route to school for hundreds of children, and an alternative transportation solution for an even greater number of working locals residing in West Steamboat.

It will be a sad, sad day when this purchase closes, because we all know this money could have been used for other things.

It will be an even more dismal day when a cyclist's life is lost on the shoulder of Highway 40.


exduffer 6 years, 7 months ago

Why the urgency? Perhaps tax cuts for the rich being allowed to expire at the end of the year?


kyle pietras 6 years, 7 months ago

I worked for our Parks dept. The Core trail is a huge priority with even bigger road blocks. If you live in the Steamboat II area talk with your Parks dept. Make it their priority as well and get them to start working toward town.


John Fielding 6 years, 7 months ago


Thanks again Mr. Orton for being such a generous and civic minded member of the community. And if you did decide to follow up on my suggestion of accepting the Iron Horse as payment for the land, I believe you could turn it around completely, capitalizing on its location on the bike path to make the New Iron Horse the favored location for cyclists on a budget. The relief to the budget of the would also allow us to dedicate substantial funding to fulfilling your inspired vision.



vanguy 6 years, 7 months ago

The roadblocks can be overcome with collective thinking that is focused on the solution, rather than the problem.

The SBS II Metro District appears to already be on board, and there are other resources to bring to the table as well. (work in kind, private fundraising, etc.)

Forget the cost and headache of trying to engineer the path along the river. Not worth the cost, and not worth the wait.

Form follows function.

West Side residents aren't asking for a concrete, scenic, landscaped trail like the one we enjoy in town. We are asking for a basic and safe connection between the existing Core Trail and the 400+ homes in West Steamboat.

All we need is a combination of city / county / private funds to acquire right of way from SBS 700 and Overlook Park to connect the trail at Silver Spur to the Gloria Gossard / New Victory Highway to Nowhere.

Once we acquire the right of way, funding the construction of a 6' - 8' wide dirt / gravel trail could be done almost immediately.

I wonder if $1.4 million in city funds would be enough to purchase these two right of way easements?

Let's stop irresponsible spending.

Let's take action on the Community's Defined Priorities.

Let's finish something that past generations of leaders have failed to even start.

Let's build this trail connection while our children are still children.


sledneck 6 years, 7 months ago

"The roadblocks can be overcome with collective thinking that is focused on the solution rather than the problem."

Click your heels together and say that 3 times.

People, You have GOT TO BE S**G me. That statement is what passes for wisdom in Northwest Colorado??????????????????????

Oh my God!


vanguy 6 years, 7 months ago

That's the spirit, SledNeck.

Attack another person's intelligence instead of actually providing alternative solutions, or even a thoughtful, justified opinion of your own.

I usually take the high road with posts like yours, because bloggers like you always seem to have the low road pretty well covered on your own.

And since you quoted wise men in your opening post of this thread, you clearly must be the local expert on exactly what qualifies as "Wise".

Maybe you didn't take the time to read my entire post (...the one with all of the actual solutions described...)

That's OK. I tend to write long, thoughtful posts, and some people just can't handle that much information in one dose.

I can even type slower if need me to.

And the "clicking of heels three times"...DANG...I wish I could have used that in my statement to City Council and the County Commissioners on September 7th, where I spoke on behalf of the 129 Silver Spur homeowners as their HOA President.

A zinger like that could have changed the entire evening's discussion in our favor.

Or maybe you just aren't as informed as you think you are. That's OK. Everyone has the right to be ignorant - after all, ignorance is far more convenient than the alternative.

Or maybe you just don't support the Core Trail initiative. That's OK. Tell us what initiatives you do support...and why others should support them too.

The toes you step on today might be attached to the butt you are kissing tomorrow.

Be Nice. It works a lot better than the alternative.




vanguy 6 years, 7 months ago

PS to Sledneck...

I believe it is spelled "inkling"...with a K.


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