Steamboat Springs What would you do if you had $11 million to spend on cycling infrastructure and amenities to benefit summer tourism in Steamboat Springs?
Spend $3.4 million on Yampa Street bike lanes, from 12th to Fifth Street, along with improved streetscape features and better connections to the Yampa River Core Trail? Spend $2.5 million to purchase an additional 70 acres owned by Lyman Orton, adjoining the city’s recent, 586-acre purchase on Emerald Mountain, to add beginner bike trails and an expanded bike park? Or, perhaps, spend $850,000 on a bathroom and shower facility at the Howelsen Hill rodeo grounds, so mountain bikers can clean up after a ride and go directly to downtown restaurants and bars without a stop at home?
Those ideas and several others all are on the table for the city’s pending application for a state grant that, if awarded to Steamboat Springs through the Regional Tourism Act approved in 2010, would give the city a slice of future Colorado sales tax revenues to benefit cycling projects to boost tourism.
An extension of the grant application deadline, to June 30 as opposed to the initial May 5, spurred a wide-ranging discussion last week by Steamboat Springs City Council, city staff, cycling advocates and others.
City government programs manager Winnie DelliQuadri was seeking feedback on the grant application and its proposed projects. The discussion will continue with City Council on June 7, as the deadline nears and the city’s application is finalized.
Two entities in Colorado ultimately will receive the tax-increment financing through the grant process.
City Council raised numerous questions about the feasibility of Steamboat’s proposal in its current form. Councilman Bart Kounovsky said the list of projects proposed for the $11 million — the estimated amount that generated tax revenues would fund — included little that would be a draw for visitors.
“Which of these projects is actually going to drive people, via advertising, to come to Steamboat?” Kounovsky asked.
He said state grant analysts reviewing Steamboat’s application might look at the projects and ask: “Where’s the meat?”
Councilman Walter Magill raised similar questions, noting that for cycling tourism to take off locally, “you’re going to have Steamboat Springs stand out in the nation.”
Projects listed in the draft grant application include bike racks, Core Trail improvements, land purchases, restrooms in various locations, a $1 million bike skills park, and more.
“It would be the implementation of a complete redesign of Yampa Street,” DelliQuadri said, saying the street could become a showcase for the community’s cycling culture.
She acknowledged that some of the projects might not seem to have direct tourism impacts.
“I would hate for the (state) to think we’re trying to get our public works projects funded as opposed to incentivizing tourism,” she said.
Much about the grant’s timetable and scope remains unclear.
DelliQuadri said the state will award grants in March 2012. Construction of any projects likely wouldn’t start until the summer of 2013, at the earliest, she said — and Steamboat would have a five-year window to begin projects, meaning potential start dates would extend all the way into 2017.
Also, the amount of tax-increment financing the state will allocate will be based on tax revenues from March 2011 through February 2012, making projections difficult.
But cycling fever has taken hold in Steamboat, and several speakers touted its potential benefits last week.
Sandy Evans Hall, outgoing executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said summer visitors typically spend about $80 a day in Steamboat. DelliQuadri said data from Whistler, B.C., shows summer cycling visitors spend about $140 a day there.
Councilman Scott Myller, a staunch advocate for cycling tourism efforts, noted that the Steamboat area offers 575 miles of bike trails. He said with better promotion, cyclists could see that Steamboat’s community has more to offer than other cycling destinations.
“The other thing to think about is, is the town of Steamboat more interesting than Fruita? More interesting than Moab?” Myller said. “Nobody knows that it’s incredible here in the summer and we have 575 miles of trails, with an incredibly cool town to hang out in.”
City Council voted, 6-0, on March 1 to support DelliQuadri’s continued work on the application and to approve a Bicycle Tourism Zone that sets parameters for potential infrastructure improvements. Myller was absent that night.
To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com