Steamboat Springs In a fancy old board room littered with thick stacks of paper and two boxes of pizza, seven volunteers are starting to plan for some of this city's most substantial trail building in years.
It is here, in the Crawford Room at Centennial Hall, where the volunteers, city staff and land managers are starting to grade and prioritize the more than $20 million worth of trail projects that will aim to enhance Steamboat Springs' reputation as a recreational hot spot.
With an estimated $5.1 million available from the city's lodging tax to help make these projects a reality in the next decade, the new trails lodging tax committee is taking its role seriously, and not wasting any time.
“We've got lots to do, and lots of projects that need to be evaluated,” committee chairman Scott Marr said after the committee spent an hour and a half grading projects ranging from enhanced crosswalks to a trail in Strawberry Park. “The thing that's really cool about it is we have a good team of people who have the same objective.”
The committee's plan is to carefully go through each of the 46 projects that are eligible to receive funding from the lodging tax and grade them each on several criteria ranging from their impact on wildlife to their ability to put more heads in beds.
To get all this done, the newly formed committee, which will ultimately recommend to the Steamboat City Council how it should best spend the lodging tax generated from tourist stays, has resolved to meet every week through at least April.
So far, they've graded about 13 projects and hope to be able to identify some shovel-ready projects that could be started as soon as this summer.
When their work is done, they will have a large spreadsheet that should serve as a guide for how to best spend the lodging tax dollars over the next decade.
“This gives you a way to be thoughtful about each one of these potential trails,” government programs manager Winnie DelliQuadri said Wednesday of the process the committee was using.
The team, which consists of a bank vice president, a bike shop owner, two realtors, a developer, a CPA and a hotel owner, don't all agree on the importance or potential of each trail, but the differing views are welcome at their meetings.
On Wednesday, for example, committee members offered competing views of whether an enhanced pedestrian crossing across Mount Werner Road near Rotary Park would enhance tourism.
Marr, the owner of Steamboat's Holiday Inn, didn't think so.
“When I look at our mandate, the idea was to come up with projects that are going to increase tourism,” Marr said. “I don't see enhancing the walkways between roads as something that is going to cause additional people to come here and stay.”
Committee member David High disagreed because he said “the overall view of the community as it relates to the safety of our guests will improve over time and make Steamboat a more attractive place” to visit.
In the end, the committee members were able to go back and forth to come to a consensus that the crossing could be a worthy investment of lodging tax dollars.
At this time, the committee currently is vetting the projects that are mostly connections and crosswalk enhancements in the city.
At later meetings, they'll grade trails on Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears and the conversations could be more complex because of the multiple land managers and environmental impacts involved.
“There's going to be a lot of education, and consensus building,” Marr said.
The trails committee is scheduled to meet again at noon on Wednesday in Centennial Hall.
The meetings are open, and public comment is accepted.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10
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