Blazing trails: Steamboat starts using lodging tax to give residents, visitors more places to explore | SteamboatToday.com

Blazing trails: Steamboat starts using lodging tax to give residents, visitors more places to explore

— When Pete Wither first rode his six-speed, shock-less Fuji mountain bike up on Rabbit Ears Pass and Emerald Mountain in the early 1980s, it was easy for him to get lost.

He also didn't run into any traffic.

"Every time we went for a bike ride back then, it was an exploration," Wither recently recalled in his downtown Steamboat real estate office. "We were riding a lot of animal trails, and we didn't know where they went. We didn't know where they were going to go out."

Fast forward 34 years, and trail blazers like Wither are embarking on an ambitious new push to give hikers, cyclists and horseback riders new places to explore in and around Steamboat.

And now, they have something they didn't dream of having when exploring animal trails was still a thing — millions of dollars' worth of lodging tax dollars to build new trails thanks to the passage of Referendum 2A in November 2013.

"This is going to be a significant change and a new chapter in Steamboat activities," Wither said.

One of the first people here to own a mountain bike, Wither clearly is excited about this new chapter of trail building.

He also couldn't pass up the chance to be a central part of it.

Last year, he and six other community members were selected by the Steamboat Springs City Council to serve on the first committee that will help oversee tax funding on trails.

For many hours this winter and spring, Wither sat in a room with more than a dozen other community members and government officials to start to map out how to build trails and best spend the estimated $5.1 million that is expected to be generated from a 1 percent tax on lodging throughout the next decade.

Checks already have been cashed, and dirt is starting to move.

"Back in 1980, there were maybe 10 people in town who had a mountain bike," Wither said. "Now, we have thousands. We need a trail system to support that, and that's what this committee is going to do."