Routt County Riders seeks new trail building equipment to speed up projects

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Past Event

Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

  • Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 5 p.m.
  • Centennial Hall, 124 10th St., Steamboat Springs
  • All ages / Free

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— Routt County Riders is hoping to speed up Steamboat Springs' ongoing transformation into a world-class cycling destination with the purchase a new singletrack trail-building machine.

The nonprofit group of cycling enthusiasts estimates the purchase of a singletrack dozer could save millions of dollars, as well as man hours, in the long run as the city spends the lion's share of its lodging tax on new trails for the next decade.

“It's going to have a lot of benefit going forward,” Routt County Riders Vice-President Eric Meyer said. “The quarry mountain trail (on Emerald Mountain) took 13 months from start to finish with hand-work only. We'd hope to do that in much less time.”

Meyer said because of its size, the trail builder, which looks like a much skinnier bulldozer, could be used in areas that currently are off-limits to heavy machinery.

It also could help speed up construction of two trails on Emerald Mountain this summer.

Routt County Riders has dedicated $15,000 toward the purchase of the machine that is estimated to cost almost $100,000, and they are looking for additional funding sources.

The Steamboat Springs City Council will hear about the idea Tuesday night as Routt County Riders asks the city about the potential of it guaranteeing a loan from Alpine Bank to purchase the equipment.

City Manager Deb Hinsvark said last week the trail-building equipment could indeed be a big benefit, but there were some concerns about the city's financial involvement with the purchase.

“It could be a good thing, and it could save time,” she said. “But at the same time, we could end up owning a singletrack dozer.”

A memo from city staff to the council also states that it could be perceived the city is creating “an unfair advantage” in the business community by helping to purchase the equipment, and if the cycling group defaults on the loan, the city would be on the hook.

Routt County Riders is not proposing to use any of the accommodations tax funds for the purchase of the machine, and they are considering a number of other funding sources.

If it purchases the equipment, the group also would still be competing with other trail builders for projects in the city.

Meyer said the machine could end up paying for itself with all of the cost savings that can be realized by building the trails in a more efficient manner.

It also could be used to benefit a number of community groups ranging from Yampatika to the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, he said.

The presentation on the new trail-building equipment will come on the same night the City Council narrows down the list of applicants for the two steering committees that will help oversee the spending of the lodging tax.

The trails steering committee will prioritize dozens of trail projects in and around the city, while the Yampa River promenade steering committee will help oversee the funding on that downtown amenity.

Other agenda highlights

Council retreat

The Steamboat City Council is resolved to soon get together in a public retreat and hash out some goals for itself in the coming years. The council voted at a prior meeting to spend $2,500 and hire a facilitator for the retreat. The council on Tuesday night will be asked to choose between two facilitators, Todd Musselman and Steve Muntean, to host the event.

Downtown BID Board

Council will consider making six new appointments to the downtown business improvement district's board of directors. The board has sat mostly vacant since a proposal to fund the downtown district with a property tax failed here in 2007. Repopulating the board is the first step toward possibly seeking another tax increase to fund the district.

Routt County Riders trail building proposal

Trail building presentation

Comments

Eric Meyer 4 months ago

A 6 month lease was the first option we looked into. The manufacture of the ST240 (best machine for the majoriy of the projects) hopes to have a lease option available in the future, but is not set up to do that currently.

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Fred Duckels 4 months ago

Who is the manufacturer? This appears to be a small mini-excavator and they are available from Cat on down and don't cost this much. Over the years customers purchase off brand items like this and a year later they can't give them away. Stick with major brands! If this was a proven product I would know about it, I would be very leery. Machines from reputable manufacturers are available to rent.

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Eric Meyer 4 months ago

Additional Resources showing the capability and features in the ST240: • Manufacture’s Website: http://www.singletracktools.com/ • Unique trail building capabilities: o Tracks narrow to 24” wide: Allows land managers to approve its use where typically only hand built trail would be allowed (BLM is currently working on this for us). o 6-way dozer blade: Greatly reduces finish work. o Front mounted bucket and thumb: When combined with the dozer blade, it allows one machine to efficiently build trail in challenging environments that other machines would end up needing to create roads not trails. The ability to move large downed trees, rocks and root balls from the dozers path is a huge advantage with this machine. o Safety: Radio controlled to allow the operator to step away from the machine when in challenging environments. Also, an optional winch that can be mounted high to increase safety by tethering the top of the machine to anchor points uphill. o Recovery: Other machines are much more likely to get stuck and require complex rigging to recover the machine and get it back to work. The front arm and bucket would be able to assist if it were to get high centered. The optional winch (when mounted low) would assist if the bucket and tracks could not do it alone. Building narrow trail makes self-recovery much more important. • Misc. Videos: o http://vimeo.com/60724863  Watch it handle the rocks at 0:27 & 2:30 o https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vuv0STIc4-c  Watch it knock over a large tree at 0:53  Watch it handle a good sized rock at 1:29  Watch it take out a good sized root ball at 2:35 • Some history behind the ST240: The origins of the ST240 date back to the early 80's with what are some pretty clear improvements, but a pretty similar overall machine. The Morrison Trailblazer (remade as the ST240) was created to help build the Pacific Crest Trail (which extends from Mexico to Canada along the rugged coastal ranges in California, Oregon and Washington States). o Photos: http://www.jctra.org/gallery/v/Club+Equipment++and+Misc/equipment/morrisontrailblazer/MTB102009+_2_.JPG.html o Unverified History: http://www.thumpertalk.com/topic/751730-take-a-look-at-jctras-new-toy-the-morrison-trailblazer/

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Eric Meyer 4 months ago

Fred,

Not sure why the reply is not working..

There is no mini-excavator that I could find that can do what the ST240 is designed to do... Build single track trails. More details on its advantages above.

If we were planning to build trails like the ski area everywhere, a small mini-excavator may be a better option. We have priced them and the specialized attachments that the ski area has used. These type of mini-ex's are readily available to rent and likely would not make sense to purchase.

We are not 100% set on the ST240, but it would take some new convincing information to show how another machine would be able to build the backcountry trails more efficiently. We would be happy to discuss details with you and learn from your experiences before committing to any machine (feel free to contact me at: trails@routtcountyriders.org).

Thanks,

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Scott Wedel 4 months ago

The Trails Alliance analysis has three massive flaws. First, it assumes this machine will require no money for maintenance. Anyone whom owns heavy equipment knows that they require constant skilled maintenance. This is a highly specialized machine which the manufacturer says is entirely custom built. That means there are almost no mechanics trained on this machine. Second, the analysis assumes the machine will be 100% available and have no downtime. Third, there is no engineering analysis of which sections of which proposed trails would benefit from such a machine. For instance, our local slippery clay soils make it far harder to use heavy equipment on a slope than in the Northwest which rarely has clay soils.

From a general philosophical viewpoint, it makes far more sense to seek bids for the work. That way a business with a skilled operator, skilled mechanic and with the judgment of how not to damage the machine can be fairly compensated for those skills. Also, the easy to predict problems of a nonprofit owning a highly specialized machine can be avoided. What happens if an operator error damages the machine or they have troubles finding someone able to quickly and consistently properly repair the machine? A business has to get that right or face bankruptcy. A nonprofit typically ends up being stuck spending far more money than projected at the issue. Look at the recent history of YVHA and Elk River parcel, Habitat for Humanity and the Riverside duplex, the South Routt Medical Center and the building remodel.

Also, a business with that sort of highly specialized expensive machine would be likely to accept work in other locations the 8 months of the year which local conditions make trail making difficult. I note that the Northwest Trails Alliance which owns such a machine is a region where trails can be built pretty much year round since they get minimal snow in the coastal areas.

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Scott Wedel 4 months ago

I think that City Council should reject the request for a loan since the City should not be in the business of providing loans to nonprofits. (Anyone else remember the $1M loan by the city to YVHA for the purchase of Fish Creek Mobile Home Park which YVHA still has yet to make payments?)

The City Council could suggest that the city public works dept consider purchasing such a machine due to the number of upcoming projects that might benefit from such a machine.

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Fred Duckels 4 months ago

If I were to be interested in this machine I would first want to know how many machines have they produced? Very little production often means poor parts availability. From an operators perspective lack of 360 degree capability with the hoe is a definite minus as machines are forever in a bind in this application. In hard materials the downhill track is constantly dropping and creating awkward situations. The winch would be helpful sometimes but it is not a good solution. The hoe with 360 capability is able to overcome many similar problems and is limited only by the operators resourcefulness. The hoe will be a little wider but it has known reliability and is rentable. Over the years experienced contractors stick with reliable brands but government entities are more likely to buy an off brand and the tales of woe are endless.

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Scott Wedel 4 months ago

I note the manufacturer is in Oregon and the machine was special built for work on their local trails. So their initial operators probably were the people that built it. And they can easily bring the machine back to the manufacturer for repairs.

From their production schedule of having one available in February and the next is available in May suggests a 3 month build schedule and a max production of 4 per year. That is obviously a highly customized machine.

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Eric Meyer 4 months ago

Unfortunately I don't have time to type out all the answers we have to the questions Scott and Fred bring up. They are all great questions and all have been looked into. Of coarse we have looked into maintenance costs and many other costs beyond the purchase price. Following some of the links provided will answer many of the other questions.

I would like to note that the document the pilot attached was a DRAFT version that was never meant for the public. We have provided the Pilot, City Staff and City Council with a better document explaining where we are at currently.

The city backing the loan is only one option to help make this happen in 2014. There are other options being discussed. We are open to and think other options may even be better for both the city and the community.

If the city's committee for trails was appointed earlier in this process, they could have helped the city staff and council make some of the very important decisions in regards to the trails portion of the 2A. Discussing a machine is small in comparison to the costs associated to with the Core trail decision that will have to be made really soon if we are going to capitalize on that opportunity. Staff and Council have been made aware of some of these hard decisions for months and in the case of the core trail grant years.

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Fred Duckels 4 months ago

No one can tell the value of a prototype machine, the only yardstick will come after years of ownership. Most new ideas have to undergo extensive use and evolution in order to be accepted. Usually at that time larger manufacturers will buy up or copy the idea if it is a winner.

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Kevin Nerney 4 months ago

I wish I had a 100 g's I'd buy the machine and rent it out to RCR at a profit. Get back to me if I hit the mega millions this week.

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Scott Wedel 4 months ago

It would appear to be a great business opportunity if it works as well as promised. If someone else owned the machine then it would easily be worthwhile to pay $100 an hour. Trails Alliance is promising 300 hours in 4 months of trail building season. Arrange for other areas without winter snow to pay you for trail building the other 8 months of the year and you are making $90K a year. Pay the loan to buy the machine off in three years and you are still clearing nearly $60K a year.

So why haven't the trained operators of the Northwest Trails group noticed the business opportunity? They should be fighting each other to get the next highly profitable machine to make themselves wealthy.

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rhys jones 4 months ago

Hey, I've run some equipment: Dozers, Gannons, Bobcats (skidsteers) buckets -- who else could flop a 9-wheel roller? That flunked me back to shovels. I coulda been a "rock" star.

Rarely will you hear me say this, but this is one time I would listen to Fred: Stick with the name brands. Parts and support are so much more reliable, and they won't be down the road in three years.

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