A healthier Yampa River? A new athletic field? Here are the 14 ideas vying for city lodging tax funding | SteamboatToday.com

A healthier Yampa River? A new athletic field? Here are the 14 ideas vying for city lodging tax funding

Tubers, boogey boarders and sunbathers hang out on the Yampa River in downtown Steamboat Springs on a summer day.

Dogs lovers, art enthusiasts, pickleball players, proponents of public restrooms and more are all vying for some lodging tax money in Steamboat Springs.

The city received 14 different proposals for how to best spend a reserve fund of lodging tax money that has been accruing in recent years. They range from a plan to use the money to keep the Yampa River flowing at a healthy pace in the summer to adding several public restrooms around town.

The money, which comes from a 1 percent tax tourists pay on their nightly stays, must be spent on something aimed at drawing more tourists to town. Projects must also enhance the city's "environmental desirability."

A committee appointed by the Steamboat Springs City Council will spend this week grading all of the proposals and coming up with a recommendation.

It will then be up to the City Council to decide which project is most worthy, or whether the money should be spent at this time at all.

City officials estimate the lodging tax reserve fund will total more than $1 million by the end of this year.

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Here's a breakdown of all the proposals:

Eagle Scout Park restroom, city of Steamboat Springs, $345,000

City officials said this project would install a "much needed" restroom in a public park in the downtown area.

Tourists and residents who currently "gotta go" near Seventh and Yampa streets currently have to go five blocks to Centennial Hall or cross the river and walk to Howelsen Park to find the closest public restrooms.

The application notes the new bathroom would be next to the location of the Farmers Market, the Yampa River Core Trail and the bridge that connects downtown to Howlesen Park.

Public restrooms at city parks, city of Steamboat Springs, $1 million

This proposal would aim to install better public restrooms in five city parks all around town. City officials estimate the new bathrooms would be used by more than 100,000 people each year and "will greatly improve the park user experience."

Parks that would get brand new bathrooms include Rich Weiss Park, Howelsen Park (behind the rodeo grounds), West Lincoln Park, River Creek Park and Spring Creek Park.

"Currently, these locations have either port-ol-lets or seriously degraded bathrooms that are only open during the summer months … and are the cause of complaints by the public," officials wrote in the application.

In the most recent community survey, only 13 percent of respondents stated the availability of public restrooms in the city was "good or excellent."

New playgrounds, city of Steamboat Springs, $219,000

Children would likely vote for this lodging tax proposal.

The city is pitching a plan to replace two would and outdated playgrounds at Little Toots and Brooklyn Parks with safer, more modern play equipment.

Both of the current playgrounds are more than 20 years old.

"Although playgrounds are not typically the primary reason for choosing a vacation destination, families with small children are often looking for low cost ways to entertain their children once they are here," city officials wrote in their proposal.

Yampa River Flow Endowment, Friends of the Yampa, $1 million

Anyone who uses the Yampa River in the summer would benefit from Friends of the Yampa's idea for how to spend the reserve lodging tax money.

The fish would also thank the group too if they could.

The river advocacy group thinks the money could be well spent on water releases from Stagecoach Reservoir that help keep the Yampa River flowing at a healthy level during the summer.

The Colorado Water Trust has partnered with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District in recent years on such water releases.
The releases help maintain a healthy river and ecosystem during low water years and times of drought.

"A healthy Yampa River is paramount to Steamboat Springs' tourism industry," Friends of the Yampa wrote in its application.

"Fly fishing shops, tubing outfitters, restaurants, breweries and river property owners depend on healthy river flows.

The application is a collaborative effort that also includes the Water Trust, The Nature Conservancy and some local business owners.

Trailered boat access, Friends of the Yampa, $446,000

Rafters and drift boaters would have an easier time getting in and out of the Yampa River if this project becomes a reality. Friends of the Yampa is proposing to establish a boat access that trailers could access at Bear River Park.

"Downstream from Steamboat there are over 140 miles of floatable river miles," Friends of the Yampa wrote in the proposal. "This access point could put the upper section of the Yampa River and Steamboat Springs on the map for multi-day, family-friendly river trips."

Arnold Barn entry feature, Historic Routt County, $295,000

Historic preservationists are hoping the lodging tax money could be used to help preserve and spruce up a rare relic of Steamboat's western heritage.

Historic Routt County's proposal is to use some of the funds to help make the historic Arnold Barn an iconic entry feature near the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

The barn, which was built in 1928 on a dairy farm, is currently sagging at a corner of the Meadows Parking lot and is not accessible to the public.

The plan is to move it up to the knoll near the Steamboat Grand, where people could stop and take pictures of it and learn more about its history through interpretive signs.

Blueprints for the barn's move up the hill from its current location are already being drawn, but funding is still needed to execute the project.

"Many will visit the Arnold Barn, a year-round attraction accessible to all, to learn more about the area's rich agricultural heritage," the proposal reads.

Sprucing up downtown alleys, Main Street Steamboat, $100,000

Could Steamboat's back alleys become the next big tourist attraction?

Main Street Steamboat Springs is seeking $100,000 of the lodging tax money to create a revolving loan fund business owners could use as seed money to screen their dumpsters and other unsightly objects in alleys. The idea would be to incentivize business owners to find uses for alleys beyond garbage disposal.

The seed money idea comes as some businesses are already taking steps to turn their alleys into amenities. Steamboat Smokehouse cut the ribbon this summer on a new back patio featuring outdoor seating, murals and corn hole.

Old Town Hot Springs expansion, $1 million

The nonprofit is seeking the tax money to help fund a major expansion project at its facility. The facility is planning to expand its weightlifting and fitness rooms and also adding more spaces for additional community needs, including classes for senior citizens, youth and groups with special needs.

"Remodeled areas in the existing building will allow for a second family changing room, locker room upgrades and a modernizing facelift to the existing building," the nonprofit wrote in its proposal. "These improvements and the new look will be a major attraction for visitors, along with the beautiful hot springs."

New lights for art museum, Steamboat Art Museum, $58,000

The most modest proposal in the bunch is for new museum-grade lighting at the Steamboat Art Museum.

"Lighting is a crucial factor for a museum," museum officials wrote in their proposal. "Our goal is to install durable and energy-efficient lighting that is versatile enough to accommodate a variation of needs for educational, meeting, and exhibit spaces."

Ice Arena expansion, Youth Hockey Association, $1 million

This proposal would add 4,346 square feet to the concession area, 3,997 of additional locker room space and a 25,806-square foot open area structure that will facilitate a second sheet of ice in the winter and a practice field in the summer.

"In addition to the needs of the ice facility, the community will benefit during the spring, summer and fall by having a covered facility that will be available to the soccer, lacrosse and baseball youth organizations," proponents wrote in the application.

Dog park improvements, Steamboat Digs Dogs, $300,000

Dogs would get thrown a big bone if this project is selected.

Steamboat Digs Dogs, a group that has spent recent months trying to make Steamboat more dog-friendly, wants to use some of the lodging tax money to create and improve several off-leash dog play areas in the city.

Parks that would see more dog-related amenities include Rita Valentine, Fetcher Park and the bluffs area of Emerald Mountain.
The proposal also includes an educational component to teach dog owners about waste clean-up and voice and sight control training.

Skate Park expansion, Skate Park Alliance, $660,000

The skaters want a piece of the pie, too. The Steamboat Skatepark Alliance is proposing to spend some of the lodging tax reserve to expand the Bear River Skatepark.

"This would double the size of the current skatepark, which is currently overcrowded and becoming unsafe for users," Trent Kolste, of the Skatepark Alliance, wrote in the application.
The current skatepark was constructed in 2009.

Community Sports Field, Steamboat School District, $950,000

Steamboat Springs School District officials think a lack of field space is limiting the number of teams that can register in lacross, soccer and rugby tournaments, thereby limiting the number of visitors to town who take part in those events.

The school district is proposing to convert the natural grass field outside of Steamboat Springs Middle School into a full sized artificial turf field.

The project would also include an asphalt surface with track lines.

"Target audience is lacrosse, soccer and rugby teams,” officials wrote in the application.

The district estimates the new field could help bring in $526,000 to $1.2 million in new revenue a year from new visitors who would use the facility.

Pickleball courts, Tennis Center at Steamboat, $699,000

Pickleball enthusiasts want a piece of the lodging tax reserve to pay for an expansion of the tennis bubble that would accommodate five indoor pickleball courts.

Tennis Center co-concessionaire Loretta Conway projects the expansion of the tennis bubble could bring an additional 3,000 customers to the facility each year.

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

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