Nellie the dog leads the way as Chris and Jessica Speer sled down Blackmer Drive on Friday afternoon. The new master plan for the park aims to protect the parks tranquility versus adding any major recreational development.

Photo by Scott Franz

Nellie the dog leads the way as Chris and Jessica Speer sled down Blackmer Drive on Friday afternoon. The new master plan for the park aims to protect the parks tranquility versus adding any major recreational development.

Approved master plan will keep one of Steamboat's largest parks mostly like it is today

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Reader poll

Now that the planning for Emerald Mountain Park is done, what should the city's next park planning priority be?

  • Keeping the parks the way they are 76%
  • Looking at other parks, including Rita Valentine, to possibly add new recreational uses and amenities 24%

93 total votes.

— Aside from a request to better accommodate horseback riders and to reconsider a disc golf course, there was little fanfare Tuesday night when the Steamboat Springs City Council voted to accept a master plan for one of this city's biggest parks.

It mostly was because the conservation easements on Emerald Mountain Park and some unique, steep terrain will prevent any major development or changes to the property, including the construction of a disc golf course.

Instead, the plan will mostly protect and preserve the large piece of open space the city purchased in 2011.

That was disappointing to City Council member Scott Myller.

“At the end of the day, we can't do anything with it, so it's a little funky I think,” Myller said before the plan ultimately was approved. “This isn't enough use.”

Myller wanted to delay the adoption of the plan because he feared the plan was too conservative in its vision.

A majority of his fellow council members, however, endorsed the plan and thanked the city, Great Outdoors Colorado, the National Park Service and the SE consulting group for helping to craft the document.

So what will change?

The plan calls for the development and reroute of some multiuse and Nordic ski trails as well as some small yurts to be added on the property for light backcountry adventuring.

Aside from that, it largely focused on protecting and maintaining the tranquility of the park that already is enjoyed by bikers, hikers, horseback riders, sledders and many dogs.

The city knew when it purchased the 586-acre park from Lyman Orton in 2011 that future development would be off the table because of the existing conservation easements.

At a rainy ribbon cutting for the park in 2011, current council member Walter Magill summed up the park's value.

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

The master planning for Emerald Mountain Park was unique in that planners knew when they started that any plan wouldn't drastically change the park.

“The plan in a lot of ways memorializes what’s happening right now,” said Melissa Sherburne, who helped lead the analysis for the SE Group, a Frisco-based consulting firm.

She said there were a lot of restraints, and the park was functioning well the way it already is.

Many of the people who showed up to the several planning meetings to help shape its future stressed that they wanted to preserve the property's tranquility and wildlife viewing opportunities.

However, Emerald Mountain Park's inability to host new recreational development could shift the focus to some of Steamboat's other parks in the future.

Disc golf, for example, was one of the most popular ideas for Emerald Mountain Park, and course planners already are working with the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department staff to possibly add a course somewhere else.

And when the city ruled out building a police station on Rita Valentine Park, Magill asked his fellow council members whether there was any interest in having the city's volunteer Parks and Recreation Commission re-examine conceptual plans for Rita Valentine Park that were tabled in 2009.

He also noted the Emerald Mountain Park planning process had brought to light a number of recreational needs that still haven't been met in the community.

“I think this is a park that is misunderstood by the community,” he said about Rita Valentine at the time, adding he thought there was an opportunity to add more uses to the park, including a disc golf course or a fenced dog park.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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