The Mitchell family takes a walk on a snowy Spring Creek Trail on Thursday afternoon. The trails lodging tax steering committee has started prioritizing trail projects, including an enhanced pedestrian access to the Spring Creek Trail.

Photo by Scott Franz

The Mitchell family takes a walk on a snowy Spring Creek Trail on Thursday afternoon. The trails lodging tax steering committee has started prioritizing trail projects, including an enhanced pedestrian access to the Spring Creek Trail.

Lodging tax committee starts grading potential trail projects

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— 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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Comments

Dave Young 5 months, 3 weeks ago

With over $5 million to work with, the cost of crosswalk enhancements that improve pedestrian safety is less than a rounding error. Among other places, signage and striping at Walton Creek at Whistler, Walton Creek at Village Drive and Village Drive at Apres Ski Way would help keep tax paying lodgers alive to come back to enjoy our great town.

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Scott Wedel 5 months, 3 weeks ago

The public did not approve this in order to pay for crosswalks. Things like that belong as part of the city public works department.

The public was promised trails that would otherwise not be built.

I did not vote for the measure because I thought it removed accountability from the city council and gave too much decision making to appointed boards.

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scott bideau 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Given that 60% of sales tax is collected from locals, I suggest projects that equally benefit locals and tourists.

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Pat West 5 months, 3 weeks ago

The lodging tax is not the general sales tax, it's levied onto hotel rooms and shouldered by our guests. That's why this committee is looking at improving trails to lure more guests, rent more rooms and thus, earn more revenue for this tax, and the general city sales tax.

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Martha D Young 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Pat: What do you think of the committee composition? It seems biased toward business as usual, and not trails.

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Pat West 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I feel represented by like minded citizens, and hope the City Council takes the recommendations from this group.

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Steve Lewis 5 months, 3 weeks ago

The original Trails Proposal's 5 project areas are: Buffalo Pass Trail System, Emerald Mountain Trail System, Mad Creek Trail System, Rabbit Ears Pass Trail System, and Town Pathways and Amenities.

In my view forest trails should be, by far, the predominate use of the funds. The most beautiful things about Steamboat Springs are found outside the city limits. Please build awesome memories with this money. Thank you to the Lodges who are making this possible.

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Eric Meyer 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Pat is right. There is a lot of misinformation out there. It is not being funded with sales tax dollars. Unless you are staying in short term lodging in Steamboat, you are not paying for any of the proposed projects.

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Eric Meyer 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Martha, If you mean hidden agenda's when you say "business as usual", I have not seen that with the initial Accommodations Tax Committee (ATC) that picked from the almost 40 initial ideas that were submitted or the the newly formed 2A Trails Committee (2A TC). The ATC worked really hard to weight the information they were given and come up with recommendation to Council. The problem comes in when the Council takes hundreds of hours of discussion & fact finding from the committee's they appoint and thinks they they can come up with a better solution in 30 minutes or less of discussion. City Council didn't like the recommendation from the ATC so they essentially asked them to change their decision. When the ATC looked at it again and came up with the same conclusion, Council decided to change it themselves. If there is anything about the process so far that is "business as usual" it was Council changing the recommendation of the ATC. Lets hope the current City Council focuses on the many other issues facing the city and lets the Committee focus on what they were asked to do.

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Eric Meyer 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I have enough faith in the 2A Trails Committee (2A TC), that I saw no reason for the people involved with submitting the proposal (me included) to be on the 2A TC. The meetings are open to the public and I (or anyone else) can attend if they feel there needs to be more oversight. If I think they are going in the wrong direction, I can spend my own personal time to research and compile a fact based argument why they should reconsider. I do not need a vote to influence the 2A TC, just a logical fact based argument. The Steamboat Trails Alliance did that over and over during the long drawn out Accommodations Tax (ATC) process and it was well received by the ATC. I am confident that if you attend a 2A TC meeting that you will see good discussions on why they are making the decisions that they are making. If the 2A TC was made up of those who submitted the ideas that were expanded into the final proposals or the land managers, then there would be a much higher chance of someone having an agenda and it not being one that is aligned with the community as a whole. The trails project has the chance to be a great community project, especially if the City Council works with the 2A TC on projects that have some visitor benefits but are clearly focused more on locals. Those projects are unlikely to be funded 100% by the 2A TC.

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Eric Meyer 5 months, 3 weeks ago

"Eight out of 10 Coloradans use our trails." Reference 80% of this states residents use trails. In my opinion these are important questions when it comes to considering the Accommodations Tax $$. 1. Who travels to use trails? 2. How can Steamboat Springs best take advantage of the money available to attract those travelers? There are different questions that need to be raised to the City Council and City Staff regarding the use of sales tax dollars and the strong desire for Open Space and Trails in this community.

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