Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park President Dan Smilkstein holds scissors that he used to cut a ribbon with Steamboat Springs City Council member Walter Magill on Saturday during a ceremony celebrating the purchase of 586 acres of land on Emerald.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park President Dan Smilkstein holds scissors that he used to cut a ribbon with Steamboat Springs City Council member Walter Magill on Saturday during a ceremony celebrating the purchase of 586 acres of land on Emerald.

Emerald land purchase celebrated in Steamboat Springs

Visions for open space includes Nordic center, expanded trail system



Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park group president Dan Smilkstein speaks during Saturday’s ceremony at the base of Howelsen Hill.

— Community members on Saturday celebrated the addition of 586 acres of Emerald Mountain open space that will be undeveloped and publicly available in perpetuity.

New York’s “Central Park is a great park, but it can’t beat this,” Steamboat Springs City Council member Walter Magill said. “It puts us up there.”

About 30 gathered at the base of Howelsen Hill for the dedication Saturday. The plan was to ride the chairlift and take a short hike to the property, but constant rain kept the speeches in the yurt by the Alpine Slide. The speeches were followed by a soggy ribbon-cutting ceremony in the nearby grass at the base of Emerald.

“It’s unique beyond unique,” said Grant Fenton, a leader of local Bike Town USA efforts. “It’s amazing what this community can do when it comes together in a collaborative way.”

Emerald has many uses, but Fenton said the $1.3 million land purchase was an example of why Steamboat recently was recognized along with 13 other cities with gold status from the Bicycle Friendly Community group.

City officials spent months debating and negotiating the purchase of the land on the north side of Emerald owned by Lyman Orton. It was a tough sell for some as the city faced a shrinking budget that had led to a reduction in city services and furloughs for some city employees.

The purchase was finalized on March 16. It was paid for using a $600,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant and about $755,000 from the city’s capital improvements fund.

Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park will manage the property and spearhead fundraising efforts for improvements. Groups including the Steamboat Springs Nordic Council, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Routt County Riders and others are involved under the Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park umbrella. Visions for the land include a Nordic center, an expanded trail system and multifaceted recreational use.

“This time we did it right,” said Dan Smilkstein, president of Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park. “A lot of us have been enjoying this for years, but now it’s in the public domain.”

Orton did not attend Saturday’s ceremony, but several people recognized him for his generosity and willingness to work with stakeholders in the land purchase.

Smilkstein said the property once owned by Orton would help connect the other thousands of acres of publicly-accessible land on Emerald.

Smilkstein said the Howelsen Emerald Mountain Park group now will start working on developing a master plan for the property.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email


cityworker 5 years, 7 months ago

As a city employee I think this is a great purchase, even though Lyman would have probably gifted it to the city in the future. The biggest fear for me is the EMP group. Yes, the city is cutting back, more and more while EMP wants to expand trails and uses for this land. This city has TONS of land ASSESTS, for Parks and Open Space which are rich for recreational opportunities! However, we find ourselves on the brink of cutting services if our budget gets cut for the 2012 year. In the past, City Council has help direct the budget when their was money to throw around, but now they are so stuck on their own personal views that they don't see what this community has elected them to do. I urge you Council, to get more involved...see what this community wants through the million surveys we've done in the past 10 years and figure out how we can sustain or even improve our level of service! We owe it to our community! Talk about a Rec Tax or Rec District that loosen the the Budget concerns and boost our recreational amentities! I know I would support such direction and im sure others in this communty feal the same! Get r done!


mtroach 5 years, 7 months ago

I also have questions of the EMP group. I'm an xc skiier but not involved with the Nordic council I'm a biker but not involved with RCR. I feel youthful but am not a part of RMYC So where can a citizen(owner) find information about these "managers" of this public land. Who are they? When do they meet? How can I give input? Why if we have owned this property for 5 months is the idea of a master plan just now getting started? What about wildlife concernes? What about equestrian use? Is the logging done will the big slash piles be removed or will we have these ugly debris piles up on our trailside forever?

Can the Today/Pilot and EMP please help me and the whole town by doing a better job of bringing this group into the spotlight so anyone who wishes to be involved in the management of OUR public lands knows the way. I've been enjoying Orton's land for years but think that now that it's public more must be done to include everyone in the decisions about it's future. Not just RCR and the Nordic council.


Steve Lewis 5 years, 7 months ago

There is a quality of stewardship that we are fortunate have on Emerald. Yes committees can gather and dictate today's and tomorrow's directions. A large commitment has been taken on.

But before the commitment was made, some in our community were already investing their time and labor. Some were turning public policy, others were turning trails.

I want to express my appreciation to those who brought the parcel this far. Thank you.


BeCoolHoneyBunny 5 years, 7 months ago

“There are going to be a lot of mothballed projects to do this,” City Finance Director Deb Hinsvark said in February, referring to the Emerald purchase.

And the paper just wrote a piece commending the city council on their conservatism with the budget!


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