A sign marks the end of the Yampa River Core Trail west of Steamboat Springs near Minglewood Timber. The city is in negotiations with private landowners to secure permanent easements in hopes of landing a grant to extend the Core Trail on both sides of the city.

Photo by John F. Russell

A sign marks the end of the Yampa River Core Trail west of Steamboat Springs near Minglewood Timber. The city is in negotiations with private landowners to secure permanent easements in hopes of landing a grant to extend the Core Trail on both sides of the city.

Grant would help fund Yampa River Core Trail extensions

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A sign marks the end of the Yampa River Core Trail west of Steamboat Springs near Minglewood Timber. The city is in negotiations with private landowners to secure permanent easements in hopes of landing a grant to extend the Core Trail on both sides of the city.

— City officials are doing the legwork needed to position the Yampa River Core Trail to be eligible for an unexpected new round of grants from Great Outdoors Colorado that have the potential to deliver a long-hoped-for extension.

Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department Director Chris Wilson told the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night that options were being explored at either end of the trail from the southern city limits near Steamboat Christian Center downstream to the western edge of town. The crux of work being done now, Wilson said, is determining whether private property owners who would be affected by Core Trail extensions are willing to negotiate a permanent easement across their land.

“The city would need to have permanent easements in hand” to be eligible for some of the GOCO grant money, Wilson. “Several alternatives are being vetted and designed in consultation with landowners.”

Winnie DelliQuadri, the city’s government programs manager, said GOCO grants are not awarded to projects that require condemnation of private land.

She emphasized Thursday that Great Outdoors Colorado has yet to formally announce the special round of grants, and there is no indication of whether the Steamboat Springs City Council would be willing to fund a grant match.

“We don’t currently have trails money in the budget for this year, but we’re not building a trail this year. For the 2013 budget, whether or not it’s important enough for council to put money in trails, I don’t know.”

However, DelliQuadri quickly added that the new opportunity to land a trail grant is intriguing because the amount could be significantly larger than the typical trail grants the city has received in the past from GOCO, which are channeled through Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife.

“The focus on trails is huge. We’ve never really applied for (a trail grant) of more than $200,000 — $250,000 tops,” DelliQuadri said. For the anticipated new trail initiative grants, DelliQuadri said cities “can apply for more like $750,000 to $1 million, so you can get a lot more done.”

Tentatively, the new trail initiative grants would be released during the course of 2013 and 2014.

Steamboat’s most recent GOCO grant was landed in mid-June when the city and the Yampa Valley Land Trust received $2.4 million from a special round of River Corridor Initiative Grants. The money will be used to improve access to the Fournier open space on the city’s west side next to Snow Bowl as well as to secure a conservation easement on a private parcel that is bisected by the river on the city’s southern edge. That project will add a public fishing lease as well as some trail connections.

The receipt of last month’s river grant led indirectly to Steamboat Springs receiving a heads up on the new trail grants. DelliQuadri sat in on the entire GOCO board meeting in Denver when the river initiative grant was awarded and learned about the new trails grants in the process.

Wilson said there are several options for extending the Yampa River Core Trail at either end of town. The city is reviewing the feasibility of a trail alignment along the river on the west end of town as well as the alternative for a path along the side of U.S. Highway 40. A third option would be to build a soft-surface trail on the Steamboat 700 property that would provide linkage to residential subdivisions in the county like Steamboat II and Silver Spur. But DelliQuadri said obtaining a permanent easement there is unlikely.

Wilson did not describe the alternatives on the south side of town, and DelliQuadri declined to name those options, but the current terminus of the trail at Dougherty Lane near the Steamboat Christian Center and River Place is well marked.

Nearby private property owners include the Dougherty family, of Kihei, Hawaii; Yampa Meadows LLC; Charles “Ed” MacArthur, of Steamboat Springs; and D Bar K Investments. The city owns 72 acres not far removed from the west bank of the river in that vicinity.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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