The city of Steamboat Springs on Thursday invited the public to start participating in a new master plan for Howelsen Hill. Community members offered a variety of suggestions for the park, ranging from the creation of a new tax to support maintenance and improvements to the addition of a new recreation center.

Photo by Scott Franz

The city of Steamboat Springs on Thursday invited the public to start participating in a new master plan for Howelsen Hill. Community members offered a variety of suggestions for the park, ranging from the creation of a new tax to support maintenance and improvements to the addition of a new recreation center.

Steamboat Springs community members weigh in on how to improve Howelsen Hill

Advertisement

— Pickleball players, trail builders, parents and longtime Steamboat Springs residents filed into Olympian Hall on Thursday night to weigh in on how the city can improve its most unique park.

Some dreamed big, asking for such things as a new restaurant or bar at Howelsen Hill or to have it become the pickleball center of the West.

Some suggested an all-encompassing indoor recreation center and the purchase of nearby open space to add more things like hiking trails and a disc golf course.

Others in the audience of about 30 people had more simple requests such as adding better wayfinding signage and more public hours at the ski hill.

“There's a community perception that Howelsen has become a place for the Winter Sports Club, the rodeo and Triple Crown,” an audience member in the front row told city officials. “It needs to have an invitation to the public to make this a public amenity.”

With more than 22 identified users of the park, ranging from skiers to horseback riders to those passionate pickleball players, the ideas from the crowd came easily, and they were diverse.

Winnie DelliQuadri's dream of allowing local children who maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in school to get free ski passes on the hill, a system she said is used by some ski areas on the east coast, was met with nods from other parents.

And one man's suggestion that all community events from the Farmer's Market to the wine festival be held at Howelsen was met with a round of applause by many in the room.

On the other hand, the same people who offered up these dreams and visions also recognized they all will be subject to the hard reality of economics and competing interests at the park.

The park currently requires hundreds of thousands of dollars each year of city subsidy to stay open, and the scars from a significant mudslide that happened late last month served as a fresh reminder of unforeseen capital expenses.

DelliQuadri joined others in saying that before new amenities are even thought of at the park, the city will have to have some way to pay for Howelsen's ongoing maintenance and operations.

“Why build a fancy new turf field if we're unable to have the facility open to the public anyway?” she said.

Thursday's meeting centered around asking the audience questions such as what they think the greatest threat to the park is, what its greatest assets are and how operating costs should be covered.

At least three people at the meeting said they would support some form of a new tax to maintain and improve the park.

The same series of questions was recently asked to 30 to 35 stakeholder groups ranging from the Winter Sports Club to tennis players who use the park regularly.

Some of the greatest threats listed by these stakeholders were a lack of funding for infrastructure and operations, an inability to keep up with demands of the community, and a range of competing interests at the park especially between visitors and locals.

When stakeholders were asked how to cover operating costs, they suggested such things as offering sponsorships of facilities, enhancing concessions at existing facilities and increasing fees and other charges at venues.

The public meeting Thursday was a prelude to what will be months of planning for Howelsen.

The city is working in-house to develop the first comprehensive master plan for the 161-acre park for the first time since the early 1990s.

Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department Director John Overstreet said the city soon will do a survey of the public to better find out what they think of the park and how it could be improved.

Dates for two additional public meetings this summer also will be announced.

“This is something that has long been the mainstay of the community,” Overstreet said. “This park has been the park not just for the city, but for the region. We want to sustain it and make it viable.”

Public feedback about Howelsen Hill

A collection of answers from the public to the following questions asked Thursday by the city:

What is the park's greatest asset?

• Ski area

• Central downtown location

• Great place for families

• It has the potential to be a grounding center for the whole community

• Free concerts and shows

What are the greatest threats to the park?

• Lack of money

• Lack of public access (cutting public ski hours)

• Erosion

• Parking issues

• Competing interests

How should improvements be paid for?

• Taxing district

• Mill levy

• Charging outside groups a per-person impact fee

• Paid parking during busy weekends

How should operations be paid for?

• Add a bar or restaurant to the lodge building

• Better-established night skiing

• Add Howelsen to Steamboat Ski Area pass options

• Create an annual recreational pass that includes amenities at the park and also other city amenities, including the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs and Haymaker Golf Course.

If funding weren't an issue, what one thing would you like to see added at the park?

• Recreation center

• Purchase of nearby open space for trails, disc golf

• Becoming the pickleball center of the West

• Free ski passes for students who maintain B grade averages

• Farmers Market, Art in the Park, Wine Festival being held at the park

• More stable source of funding

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

Comments

Scott Wedel 7 months, 1 week ago

Ah, now I see. This talk about amenities at Howelson is how the city plans to convince the public to accept a property tax.

From a budget point of view, the appropriate discussion on Howelson would be how to continue the current level of services without breaking the town's budget. So why talk about tons on new amenities? Answer: to require funding via a property tax.

0

Martha D Young 7 months ago

Once again the citizens of Steamboat Springs are being asked how they would like to see an existing park (Howelsen Hill) changed, in spite of budgetary issues caused by maintaining the park at its current level of functioning. This hoopla is reminiscent of the renewed palaver about adding amenities to Rita Valentine Park. City Council would do well by focusing on maintaining existing parks and infrastructure. What is behind these overly ambitious proposals being brought to the public?

0

Neil O'Keeffe 7 months ago

Answer to above; we are a nation of consumers and people like new things even if it is not in the budget we find all kinds of ways to justifying having that new pair of shoes, bike, park...___ (fill in the blank).

I would love to see what the city collects from Winter Sports Club for their use of City property. WSC is a for profit organization that charges an awful lot for their services and yes I agree that they have plenty of overhead and bring so much to the heritage of our winter sports community. But are they paying their fare share? Very likely they are but I have never seen any numbers, can someone enlighten me?

0

Neil O'Keeffe 7 months ago

Answer to above; we are a nation of consumers and people like new things even if it is not in the budget we find all kinds of ways to justifying having that new pair of shoes, bike, park...___ (fill in the blank).

I would love to see what the city collects from Winter Sports Club for the use of taxpayers property. WSC is a for profit organization (as far as I know) that charges an awful lot for their services and yes I agree that they have plenty of overhead and bring so much to the heritage of our winter sports community. But are they paying their fare share? Very likely they are but I have never seen any numbers, can someone enlighten me?

0

Dan Kuechenmeister 7 months ago

Let's say I justify having some new things but it's not in my budget, who is going to pay for it. My friends, my neighbors,

0

Scott Wedel 7 months ago

How can it be considered whether WSC is paying their "fair share" in the midst of subsidized activities at Howelson?

From the city's budget there is about $200K in ski area revenues and a $750K transfer from the general fund to subsidize ski operations. And that won't include the money to fix the slide.

The rodeo just about breaks even..

0

jerry carlton 7 months ago

WSC is a for profit organization? I think Neil is mistaken about that. Anybody know for sure? I agree they should pay their fair share for use of the facilities. Ski Corp is a for sure for profit corp. and we subsidize them with the tax to fly their customers into town.

0

jerry carlton 7 months ago

Went to WSC website. They are a 501c3 organization and donations are tax deductible therefore they are a non-profit.

0

Kevin Nerney 7 months ago

So is the NFL a non profit. No wonder this country is broke. We keep giving to major corporations

0

Neil O'Keeffe 7 months ago

YVMC is a non-profit as well and look at their rates for services versus the front range. All too often the non-profit status is nothing more than a tax dodge IMHO, resulting in more corporate welfare.

0

rhys jones 7 months ago

No doubt, Neil. There are MANY local "non-profit"s hiding under that umbrella, and I'll bet many Beemers are titled in their names.

0

jerry carlton 7 months ago

Kevin How did the NFL get brought into this? Is it a 501c3 and I never heard of it asking for donations? You know I usually agree with you but you lost me on this one? So Neil wants to destroy YVMC and WSC ? Bet that will make you really popular in the Yampa valley. I agree that what YVMC and every other hospital in the country charge is absurd. I also think that hip replacements, knee replacements, heart transplants, liver transplants, etc. are going to bankrupt the country if foreign aid does not do it first. Rhys Check out the salary of the president of the United Way. I have not given to that organization in 40 years. Red Cross is just as bad. My money goes to my local church, Boys Town, Angel Tree, and American Bible Society.

0

Kevin Nerney 7 months ago

Jerry- my comment was in response to Scott W. regarding WSC paying it's far share. How can they pay on one hand and accept subsides on the other. Regarding the NFL ---

That's right, the league office falls under a tax code that exempts things like business leagues and trade associations.

But does that make sense? Two senators don't think so, and they've proposed a bill to change it.

Independent Main Senator Angus King and Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, have crafted a bill to end the NFL's $9 billion-per-year tax-exempt status.

On "New Day" Thursday Sen. Coburn said: “This is a directed tax cut that to the league office, which means every other American pays a little bit more every year because we give the NFL league office a tax break and call them a non-profit. In fact, they’re not."

It doesn't help the NFL's cause that its commissioner makes $29 million a year.

0

Jim Kelley 7 months ago

Whatever comes of the "new improvements" at Howelsen Hill, it should allow more public access to the ski area. Except for the lower carpet and rope lifts, hardly any local kids learn to ski here anymore (outside of WSC). Weekend only for the public is lame and this is one of the reasons for the perception that WSC is being subsidized by the city. The faciltiy is run 7 days a week, but just about everything going on there is related exclusively to WSC operations. ----Up until about 10 years ago they sold "nooner" lift tickets for skiing/riding from 11:00 till 1:00 for five bucks. It was perfect for working folks to escape during an extended lunch break! Powder runs, moguls, tight shots everywhere, ripping GS turns down the face, and every run puts you back on the poma would never let your legs rest! It was lots of fun, but I haven't skied there since they did away with weekday skiing. Please bring back public ski access, 7 days a week.

0

jerry carlton 7 months ago

Kevin Wow! I never knew any of that about the NFL. Sounds like the have been paying off Congress like all the rest of the crooks. Make them pay their taxes. I do know the answer but the entire tax code should be simplified and rewritten. Will never happen. Country is going to collapse first.

0

Scott Wedel 7 months ago

I think Howelson ski operations needing a subsidy that is more than 3 times their revenues is not sustainable.

I think the situation at Howelson screams out for a private operator. The subsidies will initially have to be of a similar scale to find a private operator, but a private operator would seem to have so many potential promotions to increase revenues that someone with their skin in the game should be able to expect to do significantly better than the city's management.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.