Our View: New river park tops the list

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If we could go back in time more than 100 years and execute a redo on the original street grid for Steamboat Springs, one of the highest goals on our list would be to impose a 50-foot setback from the Yampa River for residential and commercial development along the south side of Yampa Street where it borders the river.

Steamboat Today editorial board — January to April 2014

  • Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
  • Lisa Schlichtman, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Karl Gills, community representative
  • Will Melton, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

Of course, it’s too late to accomplish that goal. But it’s that hindsight that convinces us the members of the lodging tax committee made a wise choice this week when they identified their top priority for spending $900,000 in lodging tax revenues pegged for Yampa Street.

The committee will recommend to the Steamboat Springs City Council that acquiring a vacant parcel at the intersection of Seventh and Yampa streets for a future pocket park on the river should be the first step in making Yampa Street more appealing to pedestrians and visitors.

It’s undeniable, we think, that the Yampa River, where it flows right past the back door of our historic downtown commercial district, has an appeal that transcends mere scenery.

Visitors and residents alike are drawn to the river for picnic lunches, scenic photo ops, floating sports, fishing and even swimming. In late summer, the kayak feature known as Charlie’s Hole near the confluence with Soda Creek turns into an old-fashioned swimming hole that evokes a nostalgic Norman Rockwell painting.

Our downtown river experience is one that would be difficult to replicate, even in mountain towns such as Buena Vista and Salida that have impressive public access to the Arkansas River. The lodging tax committee is right on target with its plan to provide more downtown access to the river

Presently, we enjoy limited public access to the Yampa from Fifth to 13th streets. The exceptions include Ski Town Lions Park just below the Fifth Street Bridge, the stream bank boulders at the Ninth Street pedestrian bridge, the rocky beach at Charlie’s Hole and at Lincoln Park downstream from the 13th Street Bridge.

The Seventh Street parcel would provide a streamside park right in the middle of an already resurgent dining district just a block from the downtown retail district. We predict people would flock to it.

The lodging committee did a thorough job of evaluating and ranking its alternatives and concluded that, with the Seventh Street parcel about to go on the real estate market, it’s time to tie it up before the opportunity is lost. True, Yampa Street is in desperate need of more sidewalks, but we can build those any time.

The immediate challenge ahead of the committee is that the estimated $900,000 in lodging tax revenues, which are projected to accrue in the next three years, is likely to fall several hundred thousand dollars shy of the anticipated asking price of the Seventh Street parcel.

Members of City Council already have made it plain that they will not backstop any shortfall with city general funds. And we have no problem with that. But the city does have staff with expertise in planning and grant writing to lend.

We are optimistic that the community of Steamboat Springs’ proven track record of delivering outstanding completed projects when grant monies are extended to us will attract funding for the Yampa Street Park. And even if we lack funds to fully develop our vision for the completed park in the short-term, Steamboat’s private sector, together with its service clubs and nonprofits, have demonstrated the ability to turn a vacant lot into a safe haven along the Yampa that will be enjoyed by all.

Let’s all pitch in.

Comments

bill schurman 9 months ago

"True, Yampa Street is in desperate need of more sidewalks, but we can build those any time." My question is where does the money come from to "build those (sidewalks) at any time" ? Are you (the Editorial Board) cognizant of the City Manager's recent report to the city council ? It is obvious that she is concerned about funding for future infrastructure projects (including sidewalk construction) and impliedly is tossing the idea of property taxation as suggestion to help pay for the needed infrastructure construction. As this (property taxation) is surely related to the Yampa Street improvement , what is your (the Editorial Board) position on the larger issue of property taxation ? I await your response on this related issue.

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Martha D Young 8 months, 4 weeks ago

When exactly will the sidewalks on Yampa St. be built? Dodging car traffic on Yampa St. both as a pedestrian and cyclist gives me pause to wonder why a "pocket park" takes precedence over human safety. Since when are public sidewalks the responsibility of the property owner and not the city, as on Oak St.? Your question about taxation deserves a reply.

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John St Pierre 9 months ago

Would be great if the Pilot would identify the property owner who is getting this taxpayer bailout on property which they have been unable to sell to anyone else....

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Scott Wedel 9 months ago

It should be considered irresponsible to spend money to start a project without a plan on how to complete the project.

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John Fielding 9 months ago

Why is the 7th street lot preferable to the 6th street lot, which has 4 times the river frontage? The 6th lot also is not developable without significant variances so an appraisal would reflect that fact. If the owner will not agree to sell for the appraisal, the City could legitimately claim eminent domain, but the owner would not likely refuse and so alienate the City that variances would be even less likely, and any subsequent buyer would know that.

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John Fielding 9 months ago

Maybe it is just that because of the obstacles to development of the 6th street lot they figure there is no hurry. But because the 7th street lot is so well suited for a business, it probable should be left in the private sector and become another venue for the visitors to patronize and generate revenues to support parks at the other locations.

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Pat West 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I agree with JStpierre, can we quit calling this lot "the 7th street parcel" and refer to it by the legal description. While the lot may lay on Yampa across from 7th, I've seen it called by many different names, and to be clear, the Pilot, and the city should refer to it by its legal name.

It has a street number, and address, 6xx yampa street, or whatever, and using a legal description would allow any curious citizen to research who owns the parcel, what they paid and when, and thus letting everyone in the community the chance to see clearly the players in this real estate "deal". Once we all know its name it will be easy to track the ongoing developments with this purchase.

Anyone know what this lots legal name is?

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Steve Lewis 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I believe the "7th Street" parcel is 655 Yampa St. - at least it was called that in one Mainstreet email.

John, Some portion of the other park area, the "6th Street parcel", is City property. I think that park may all already be City property.

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Pat West 8 months, 4 weeks ago

And I guess 655 YAMPA, LLC bought the property, demo'ed the existing structure, and is sitting on it waiting for re-sale or development. Their purchase price, leaves the tax comm in a tough spot if they think the 655 Yampa st. is affordable, or even an option.

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Scott Wedel 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I think the 6th street property lacks the space between the river and railroad on the opposite side for a bridge.

Spending all their money on property acquisition will mean not only no money for sidewalks, but no money to develop the park or for a bridge over the river. The railroad tracks greatly increase the costs of a bridge since it must also go over or under the tracks.

I don't see the critical need for another park along the Yampa River. There are nice parks at both ends of Yampa St with paths from one end to the other. This is hardly a terrible shortage of river parks.

Seems to me that it makes far more sense to expect to partner with the developer of the 7th street parcel to provide river access and a bridge. Developer gets foot traffic for the stores and public is spared the costs of buying expensive.

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Scott Wedel 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Pat,

The county's assessed value is $910,000 which is a cautious valuation for the two year period ending in June, 2012. It was purchased for $1.2M in 2006.

Pretty clear that they'd be lucky to purchase it for all of the money allocated for Yampa St improvements.

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