A crowd listens to a discussion about whether to develop Rita Valentine Park. The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission voted to start from scratch on plans at the park.

Photo by Scott Franz

A crowd listens to a discussion about whether to develop Rita Valentine Park. The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission voted to start from scratch on plans at the park.

Steamboat's Parks and Rec Commission wants to start from scratch on Rita Valentine Park planning


— At a long meeting that drew raised voices and plenty of passion, Steamboat Springs' Parks and Recreation Commission tried to steer the hot debate about whether to develop Rita Valentine Park toward a compromise.

“I do think there is a happy medium,” commissioner Jenette Settle said after talking with the public Wednesday about the park for nearly three hours. “I think we can work this out.”

To do that, the commission thought the city needs to start from scratch at the park.

At the end of the night, the commission voted to recommend that the Steamboat Springs City Council scrap the conceptual plan for the park that was tabled indefinitely in 2009 and come up with a new one with the help of the public.

Commission members said some items that were mentioned in the previous park plan, including a recreation center, were divisive and causing angst.

But a majority of commission members indicated they're open to some forms of development, including building trails.

Other members also were open to the addition of a disc golf course.

Commissioner JoEllen Heydon said the conceptual plan that called for the disc golf course, parking areas and dog parks was doable.

She added a beginner bike park also would benefit the area.

Commissioner Kara Stoller said a dog park or additional parking isn't needed, but without more trails, most of the 40-acre park currently can't be explored.

“I think we could expand the trail network that's in there for hiking and maybe some biking, so we can all experience more of the park,” she said.

At the very least, several commission members wanted to see the existing social trails improved.

More than 40 people went to Centennial Hall to discuss and debate the future of the park.

Neil O'keeffe said Rita Valentine Park is a centrally located place that could be ideal for things like a dog park and a disc golf course.

Robert Gould, who takes his dog there every day, wants the undeveloped park to stay exactly as it is right now.

A few opponents of developing the park also said it was one of Steamboat's last areas of open space that needs to be protected.

But those open to development countered that the city currently has more than 2,000 acres of open space and more than 500 acres of parkland.

As it is not designated as open space, Rita Valentine falls into the category of parkland.

A majority of people who spoke Wednesday night live near the park and wanted it left alone.

A significant part of the meeting also dove into the park's past and the battles that have been fought about its future.

Before public comment started, commission chairman Jack Trautman gave a long speech about the several groups in Steamboat, from disc golf players to dog owners, that have asked for new recreational amenities here throughout the years.

As one of Steamboat's only undeveloped parks, attention turned to Rita Valentine.

Trautman said that at one time, a group of neighbors called Friends of Rita Valentine was willing to invest in adding buffers around the park and be an active voice in how it got developed.

Trautman said he was frustrated that a previous City Council voted to table the conceptual plan he said was developed with a lot of community input.

“Here we stand five years later hoping we can get that same amount of community involvement, energy and dollars to make this a better resource,” Trautman said.“It hurt after all that work to get the City Council to ignore all of our hard work.”

Community member Anita Pedersen was one of the few new Steamboat residents in the audience.

She said she followed a similar controversy many years ago in Boulder around a piece of undeveloped land that today is Wonderland Lake Park.

“There were people there who were very worried the same way homeowners here are worried,” she said.

She said the addition of new recreational amenities like a playground, paved walking paths and parking benefited the area and did not ruin the space.

She said the park also retained much of its open space.

“I think there's some space in the middle,” she said about Steamboat's current debate over Rita Valentine Park.

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


Martha D Young 2 years, 11 months ago

The several phase conceptual plan that was presented to the Parks and Rec Commission in 2009 was created by an outside consultant who was paid around $75,000. To my knowledge there was no community participation in the plan which included a road through Rita Valentine Park connecting Hilltop Parkway and Anglers Drive. The citizen opposition to the plan was so vehement that Council tabled it. In order to avoid being doomed to repeat past mistakes, the fate of Rita Valentine Park should be put to a public vote: leave it as it is or install amenities..


Scott Ford 2 years, 11 months ago

One of the key issues that became apparent during last night’s meeting is that there is not a shared understanding of what “Open Space” means. Going forward we need to have a clear definition or we will run the risk of using the same words but talking past each other.

The 2009 Rita Valentine Park conceptual plan had a limited development option that would provide for (disk golf, a variety of bike and hiking trails, Dog Park, picnic area and an access road.) From the commissions perspective these would be compatible uses of “open space” and would not degrade the intended uses of the property.

However, it was loud and clear that some folks present last night do not want any improvements to the area that would include the list previously mentioned. Perhaps a better word in this context would be “Nature Preserve” vs. open space or park land.

(Although I am a member of City Council my views are my own and may or may not be shared by my fellow City Council members.)


Scott Wedel 2 years, 11 months ago

Scott F.

I'd suggest to come up with additional terms that are the more specific types of "open space" Such as:

Pristine Open Space which has no trails and leaves the land as it is.

Trails Open Space which has trails on the natural terrain and activity stays on the trails.

Recreational Open Space where people aren't limited to trails and so would include dog park and frisbee golf.

Developed Open Space in which there are no buildings so visually it is open, but it may have basketball courts or ball fields

A parking lot or a road is not Open Space in anyone's understanding of the term because that is not visually open when a RV or other large vehicle is present. Thus those are not considered Open Space, but are what they are. Even those they are not "open space", it may be a better use of part of the park than having the public park on neighborhood streets.

With terms like that which are pretty specific then the commission can considering different uses in different areas without arguing semantics.


Cresean Sterne 2 years, 11 months ago

Lets not create a new language of definitions here in __ town USA. Open space has always had the same specific definitions.

Undeveloped land that is protected from development by legislation.

Open space is an open piece of land that is undeveloped (has no buildings or other built structures) and is accessible to the public. Open space can include: Some green space (land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation).

There are other terms like urban open space or green space which defines it as so.

Green space (land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation). Green space includes parks, community gardens, and cemeteries. Schoolyards Playgrounds Public seating areas

A frisbee golf course would not be considered as open space but a non intrusive trail walking trail system would. A dog park would not be open space but open space that allows dogs would.

Stmt has had issues with frisbee golf. Our frisbee courses have been taken down as fast as they go up. I have heard that the ski area is once again installing a frisbee course back on the Mtn. May I suggest we wait and see what happens their instead of considering installing one again at RVP. JMO...


jerry carlton 2 years, 11 months ago

I pay $20 or more each time I play golf. Why is this community obligated to provide a Frisbee golf course for free play? If there is enough demand, someone build one on private land and charge $5 per round.


jerry carlton 2 years, 11 months ago

Saw a bunch of ranches for sale on page 3 of paper today and cheapest one not sold is $1800 per acre. The disc golfers want 50 acres? That is $90,000.


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